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Worried about buying a property on contaminated land? Get a report, for a fixed fee of £69 INC VAT.
Report emailed within 1-2 working days.*

It includes an analysis of all environmental risks, such as contaminated land, flood, ground stability and energy and infrastructure.

Environmental Search

(Last Updated: 24/10/2023)
3 min read
Key Takeaways
  • When buying a property, you can get an environment search to highlight environmental risks to your property and the surrounding area.
  • This comprehensive environmental report includes risks such as contaminated land or radon gas, as well as flood risk, ground stability and energy and infrastructure factors which could affect you.
  • If the search reveals contaminated land, you will need to solve this issue before making your purchase.
  • The fixed, environmental search cost is £69 INC VAT and the turnaround time is 1-2 working days*.

What is an environmental search?

An environmental report is one of the most common property searches a buyer obtains during the conveyancing process (and you can see why with the number of potential defects it highlights). The focus of the report is to highlight environmental risks which affect your property and the surrounding area (radius size varies depending on the defect reported).

This report will analyse risks surrounding your property, specific to the following sections:

Download Example
Environmental Search Report

Is an environmental search mandatory?

Many mortgage lenders do require you to book an Environmental Report. You can find out if this is a requirement by reading the Equity Mortgage Lender’s Handbook for Conveyancers.

You are liable to let your lender know of any contamination discovered on your property. You will not need to provide them with a copy of your report.

There is no requirement to buy an environmental report if you are a cash buyer, but you may give yourself considerable peace of mind by doing so. It is worth considering that if you ever need to sell the property, the next buyer might buy an environmental report. If they find a risk factor which you did not know about, you may find your home more difficult to sell than you thought.

What does an environmental report show?

An assessment is made by considering the following factors, with data being drawn from the Environment Agency and the relevant local authority:
  • Contaminated Land
  • Past Industrial Land Uses
  • Radon Gas
  • Air Quality Management Area
  • Air Quality Index
Perhaps the most important part, an environmental search report firstly flags up whether the property is situated on contaminated land and gives the result ‘Passed’ or ‘Failed’ as an overall assessment.

You can still buy a house situated on contaminated land. The problem you are facing, however, is that once this risk is flagged in a report, it will need solving. Unless exempt, the person or institution responsible for causing it is liable to decontaminate, but they cannot always be identified. As a result, the person using the land might be asked to do it.

The relevant local council will decide who is responsible for dealing with the contamination.

When purchasing a property, you can get Contaminated Land Insurance which can cover these costs for you. If, however, the property has already been purchased, this Environmental Search Report includes a Remediation Warranty, which can cover up to £100,000 for 6 years from the date of purchase.

Another important factor in this section is Radon. It is a radioactive gas which is common in many parts of the UK and can be found in the ground underneath buildings. In certain areas, such as many parts of the West Country, the gas can build up to radioactive levels which are harmful to health. It can cause lung cancer, particularly in those who have smoked or continue to smoke cigarettes.

This part of the report flags up whether a property is in a radon-affected area. It covers the same function as a Radon Search, which is often bought as a standalone product. Should the property be within 25m of a radon-affected area, the report will flag the risk as ‘Identified’ and advise further testing and how to go about this.
This section considers data about the risks of flooding and is broken down further into the next sections:

  • River Flooding
  • Coastal Flooding
  • Surface Water Flooding
  • National Flood Risk Assessment
  • Historic Flood Events
  • Groundwater Flooding.
  • JBA Floodability Rating
  • Flood Storage
  • Dam Break
  • Sewer Flooding

If the flood findings report risks which are of concern to you, you would be well advised to buy an in-depth Flood Risk Report.

The greater detail in this report deals with matters such as whether you would be likely to get buildings insurance on standard terms or not. Your conveyancing solicitor can advise you further in these circumstances.

Should there be any risks of flooding then the report will include a section which says ‘Identified’ and will explain what the risk is and whether further action should be taken.
This part of the report considers whether there are any factors, whether man-made or natural, which might affect the property in terms of its stability. If this is flagged as an issue you should check the seller’s property information forms (TA6). These should state whether the property has been underpinned or not.

A Subsidence Report is good for flagging high-risk soil types that could cause subsidence, however, it does not confirm whether your property has subsidence. If you are concerned about this, then you should instruct a RICS surveyor to complete a Building Survey to confirm if they see any signs of subsidence affecting your property.

This is necessary, as should subsidence be identified, you will need to hire a structural engineer to remedy this. Requesting the help of a professional before taking action might be more cost-effective, as underpinning can cost upwards of £40,000.
Modern energy and infrastructure developments are currently underway and while their purpose is to benefit local communities, they can significantly affect property prices. Wind farms, for example, produce excessive noise and this may deter buyers from purchasing in affected locations.

In this section of the report, factors such as HS2, energy exploration, and solar or wind farms will be identified within the vicinity of the property.

If the report reveals something of concern to you, you can always get a detailed Energy and Infrastructure Report.

The Environmental Search Report analyses various dataset categories, which depending on the location, may not apply to your property. Similarly, factors investigated in the example environmental report might not be relevant to your property.

A list of these categories can be found at the end of each section in the example report, although your report will only include what applies to you.

Environmental risks affecting your property's value?

  • Includes an analysis of all environmental risks, such as contaminated land, flood, ground stability and energy and infrastructure.
  • This is usually a mandatory search when you buy a house.
  • Report delivered within 1-2 working days*
  • Fixed fee of £69 INC VAT

£69 INC VAT | Report within 1-2 working days*

Environmental Search
  • More detailed report, usually requested by the solicitor or lender if a risk is flagged in your conveyancing searches
  • In-house environmental consultancy expertise
  • Report delivered within 10-20 working days*
  • Fixed fee of £360 INC VAT

£360 INC VAT | Report within 10-20 working days*

Frequently Asked Questions
Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands-on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Reviewed by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

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