LEGAL EAGLE: Why coal searches are vital

The sinkhole that appeared on the A1
The sinkhole that appeared on the A1

In June this year an old mine shaft resulted in a sink hole appearing in a section of the A1 in Gateshead. The road was closed for days causing huge delays. It is a reminder that the North East was once the primary coal mining area in the country. The pits are long since closed but the underground workings remain. Imagine if this happened underneath or near to a home that you have worked so hard to buy? A coal search will identify if a property is at risk before you purchase.

What is a coal search?

A coal search is a search in records held by the Coal Authority. It will tell us if a property is at risk by checking if it is in a former coal mining area and list any past mining activities which may put a property at risk of being on or near to unstable ground.

It costs around £30 but could save you a lot more in the long run.

A coal search contains information regarding any mining entries concerning the land the property is built on and the surrounding area.

It will also reveal any plans for future coal mining within the area of the property, any gas emissions from old coal mines and any other mining hazards such as old shafts within the area of the property.

Why is the North East more at risk than other areas?

Due to the mining heritage within the North East of England, we advise that all potential buyers have a coal search carried out.

Because of the history of the mining history within the North East, the area is at high risk of potential underground voids which may cause subsidence.

A prudent buyer should ensure that their solicitor requests a coal search and identifies any risks before going ahead with the purchase.

What happens if the coal search reveals the property is at risk?

You should check any search carefully and take advice as to its contents. A good solicitor will usually highlight any problems.

If you are obtaining a mortgage any issues may need to be reported to your lender. The lender may require a more detailed follow up report if risks are revealed. In some cases a lender may refuse to lend.

If you are a cash purchaser the decision is yours whether to continue with the purchase or not. We would advise further investigation into the risks before completing the purchase.

The Coal Authority do pay compensation for properties affected by past coal works but this is only paid once so that if the repairs do not fix the problem any costs of later works would come out of your pocket.

You may need to notify your insurer of problems and it may be difficult to obtain buildings insurance as a result

Whether you are a first time buyer or an investor we would always recommend that you have a coal search carried out. This will help to identify any problems which could arise and avoid your hard earned investment falling into the ground.

l At David Gray Solicitors we have an experienced property team to guide you through the conveyancing process. Contact Cliff Veitch, head of the property department, on 0191 243 8167 to find out more.