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What Lies Beneath ?

By John Ryan, Head of Conveyancing

Plan for the Worst and Hope for the Best

What a glorious summer we are having! The thrills of Wimbledon and the Cricket World Cup final are over and holidays are coming (for some of us, at least). The countryside is looking green and lush. But do you ever wonder what lurks beneath the surface or how that scene might change?

Did you know that there are 22,000 historical landfill sites in England and Wales and a further 2000 active landfill sites? There are also 21,500 sites identified as being in need of remediation due to past land use, including historical industrial use.

Buyers of houses should beware. For example, take a commercial development in Anglesey of 112 houses built and bought in the 1950s. Buyers at that time did not have the benefit of current environmental searches. Sixteen of those houses were found to be affected by arsenic from previous industrial works and in need of remediation.

Only 60% of the cost was covered by the local council, leaving householders to cover the remaining cost between them. The average cost of remedial work where land is found to be contaminated is £15,000 per home. Defra has cut funding to deal with contaminated land issues and Local Authorities are struggling for funds.

If you are buying a house, it is a vital part of the process that past land use is investigated and appropriate searches undertaken.

Flooding is the second largest environmental risk, even more so when account is taken of climate change and the risk of extreme flooding events. The average cost per household when flooding occurs is £20,000. Nonetheless, 10,000 houses a year are still being built on floodplains. Once again these risks need to be investigated and considered before you commit to the purchase of a property.

The flood history and future risk should be taken into account and it is vital that you check for the availability of insurance.
A good conveyancer will always investigate these issues and potential risks on your behalf as part of a thorough title report. Conveyancing is a vital process, to be carried out thoroughly and with individual care. Caveat emptor, as the latin goes: let the buyer beware.

By John Ryan

Head of Conveyancing, Taunton Solicitors

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