When buying a property or piece of land, it is best practice to carry out searches to reveal any potential associated risks. A Local Authority search gives details about whether the building is listed, is in a conservation area, needs improvement or is subject to a renovation grant as well as information about public highways, roads, rail schemes and planning decisions that could affect the property.

One of the present obstacles in the real estate industry is the suspension of search services by Local Authorities. As of 19 April 2020, there are currently 26 councils which are either temporarily closed or have limited access to search services. This will have implications for buyers as they may be delayed in completing their property purchase, or potentially be unable to complete transactions altogether.  

What are the alternatives?

No search indemnity insurance

If a buyer is unable to obtain the relevant Local Authority Searches before purchasing a property, a way to avoid delay in completion is to obtain No Search Indemnity Insurance. The insurance is intended to cover the buyer for any detriment in property value caused by adverse search entries that may have reasonably arisen at the time the search should have been conducted.

What are the benefits of No Search Indemnity Insurance?

  • It avoids delays in completion
  • Can be quickly set up – usually consists of a payment of a one-off premium
  • The price of the insurance is usually based of the level of indemnity required which is normally the value of the Property.

What are the disadvantages of No Search Indemnity Insurance?

  • Does not guarantee complete protection
  • The potential threats to the property may lower the buyer’s enjoyment of the property
  • Any detrimental information regarding the property may only come to light when it comes to selling the property in the future, which may mean it is difficult to sell


Contracts conditional on receipt of a satisfactory local search

Another option, for buyers who are at the stage of exchanging contracts, is to make the contract conditional on receipt of a satisfactory local search. This means that the contract is agreed subject to any adverse findings in the Local Authority Search. This would allow for the buyer to be protected against being tied into a contract they no longer wish to be in once the Local Authority Search can take place.

What are the advantages of making a contract conditional on search results?

  • The buyer will be fully aware of the condition of the land and be able to review the usual search results
  • Any adverse search results will mean that the buyer will not be bound by the contract
  • Allows for the buyer to show their intention to purchase the property

What are the disadvantages of making a contract conditional on search results?

  • The contract to purchase of the land or property will slightly more complicated than a normal unconditional contract
  • The seller may not wish to enter into a conditional contract due to the potential delays and uncertainty

Further information

Should you require any further information regarding how COVID-19 might impact a property purchase, you can contact our Commercial Property Team on 0161 941 4000 or email The Commercial Property Team


We also recommend paying close attention to any new government guidance at www.gov.uk and following our COVID-19 blog series Click here to view.