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Environmental Risk Reports

When you purchase a property, you are always taking a risk. In order to minimise the risks involved your solicitor will carry out certain searches on your behalf, these searches will reveal a great deal of information about the property you are purchasing, such as whether you will have to pay any hidden charges of ownership such as the upkeep of the road and sewer, any financial charges on the property etc. These searches will also reveal whether your property is close to any new road schemes or railway schemes, whether any alterations to the property were carried out legally within the conditions of the planning permission, or whether planning permission was obtained at all.

It is now government policy to build wherever possible on ‘brown field’ sites. With Britain having led the industrial revolution, it is inevitable that some properties built in the last 100 years will have been built on potentially contaminated land, up to 400,000 sites have been identified. If the property you have bought is later found to be contaminated, you could be liable for the clean up costs of the land, which can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. A purchaser could end up owning a property which has cost them, for example, £120,000. They could then become responsible for clean up costs exceeding the purchase price and end up with a property they can’t sell! Talk about negative equity!

It is also very important to most purchasers to know whether any of the following environmental risks are situated near to or even under the property.

Flood risk areas
Subsidence risks
Landslip risks
Mining & mineral extraction
Radon & radon protection measures
Air quality
Radio masts
Landfill and waste sites
Storage of dangerous, hazardous & radioactive substances
Past & current industrial land use

The health risks associated with some of the above risks are well documented and being covered in the press with increasing regularity, your family may live in the property you purchase for many years to come.

Your choice of property with the help of an environmental report and certificate should ensure that you are not subjected to prolonged exposure to these risks to family health.

Many properties receive a clean bill of health from an environmental report & on the basis of the report a certificate may be issued. The purpose of the environmental certificate is to assist the purchaser or conveyancer in assessing the implications of certain environmental risks identified in the environmental report. Such risks are normally identified from 10 key recorded land uses which, on their own or in combination and subject to their proximity, could lead to the property being described as ‘contaminated land’.

Local Authorities are required to keep a register of contaminated land, however many Local Authorities have yet to compile their register, and invariably they are unable to confirm whether the land is likely to be later classed as contaminated.

Comprehensive environmental risk reports are commercially available from under £40.00 and are compiled using data supplied from official sources such as The Environment Agency, Ordnance Survey, the Valuation Office, the Health & Safety Executive, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, British Geological Survey, The Coal Authority etc.

These reports protect the public, their legal representatives and all property owners from potentially massive costs associated with cleaning up land subsequently identified to be contaminated land under the Environment Act 1995.

It is in the interest of any person or company intending to purchase a property to instruct an Environmental search at an early stage in the purchase, as the report and its findings can be used to make an informed decision on whether to purchase the property at all and can also be used as a bargaining tool in the negotiation process. If the environmental report is instructed first and reveals environmental risks with which the purchaser is not happy, and he or she decides not to proceed, then expensive costs associated with an abortive purchase, such as surveyors fees, mortgage application fees, solicitors fees etc can be avoided.