Coal mining searches – Are they really necessary?

If you have found that dream home to purchase, your main concern may simply be when the moving date will arrive. It must be stressed however that even if a property appears perfect on the surface, there may be hidden issues not immediately apparent from an initial inspection. A prudent buyer should always have various searches carried out against a property before taking the final plunge.

Coal mining searches will often be essential for anyone buying a property in an area with a history of coal mining. Surface and underground coal mining played a huge part in the industrial history of Britain, a role which continues today. Previous coal mining activity can pose various risks when you are planning on purchasing a property. A house may have been built over or near to old coal mineshafts and there may be a risk of subsidence (the gradual caving in or sinking of an area of land). In Cheshire, brine has been extracted by a pumping process for several centuries. Underground cavities created by the pumping may ultimately collapse, causing serious damage to any property above. Cases are often reported of old mine shafts collapsing due to not being capped or filled-in properly and causing serious damage to houses. There may also be environmental issues, such as soil contamination, mine gas emissions and the build-up of dangerous elements.

Because of these risks, it is vital that a mining search is carried out when purchasing a property in an affected area. If you are having a mortgage, your lender will insist on having the search carried out in order to protect their interest in the property. The value of a property can seriously diminish if previous mining activities are discovered and buildings insurance premiums are also likely to be affected.

Mining reports are prepared by the Coal Authority. The Coal Authority owns the vast majority of the coal in the UK (along with former coal mines) and is responsible for licensing coal mining in Great Britain. The Coal Authority Report reveals information regarding any past, present and future mining and highlights any environmental and stability risks which could affect the property. The search also provides details of any subsidence remediation claims, shaft locations, reported hazards and mine gas emissions. Mining reports cost approximately £35 and are generally prepared relatively quickly (usually less than a week).

For an additional fee, the Coal Authority can also provide a supplementary Mine Entry Interpretive Report. This report goes into greater detail regarding any mine entries revealed and highlights the likelihood of mining subsidence damage arising as a result of the entries. The Interpretive Report also provides details of any remedies available for subsidence damage.

The Coal Authority website contains further useful information and has an interactive map which can be used to determine whether the property you wish to purchase is located in an area with mining history. The website could aptly be described as a mine of information!

When purchasing a property, your Conveyancing Solicitor will advise you whether a mining search is needed. Once the search has been obtained, your Solicitor will explain the results to you. In the majority of cases, the search will not reveal any serious issues but will importantly provide you with peace of mind and satisfy your mortgage lender.

ORJ is a Legal 500 Top Tier firm and is a leading Staffordshire law firm for conveyancing services. Contact Jade Orr (Jade.Orr@orj.co.uk) or Louise Palmer (Louise.Palmer@orj.co.uk).