Advice and Dangers when Conveyancing in Somerset

If you are looking to buy or sell a house in the beautiful county of Somerset, then a Fridaysmove Conveyancing Solicitor in the Somerset area can offer expert assistance with Conveyancing work in all parts of the county at a discounted rate.

Our Experience of Somerset Conveyancing

Fridaysmove Conveyancing Solicitors operate throughout the traditional county of Somerset, which includes a number of well-known residential towns and cities.   The city of Bath is in the north-east of the county, and Midsomer Norton, Radstock, Frome and Shepton Mallett are also in that area (for the benefit of non-locals, Frome is pronounced "froom"). The towns of Weston-super-Mare, Burnham-on-Sea and Minehead are not only seaside resorts but popular residential areas. To the south of the county are found Taunton (the county town), Bridgewater, Ilminster and Yeovil. Wells is justly famous for its cathedral, and nearby are Glastonbury and Street.

Much of Somerset is very rural, and there are numerous attractive small town and villages. These can bring their own problems from a legal point of view, hence utilising the services of a Conveyancing Solicitor with expert knowledge of this area of property law is essential.

Somerset county council now covers the districts of Taunton Deane, West Somerset, South Somerset, Mendip and Sedgmoor, while there are two unitary authorities in the northern part of the county, North Somerset and Bath & North East Somerset. These last two areas, together with some other areas which were part of the historic county of Somerset, were once joined with Bristol and parts of south Gloucestershire, as the county of Avon. That county has now been abolished, but the name lives on as a general name for the greater Bristol area, as well as being part of the name of organisations such as the Avon & Somerset police authority.

While many people are looking to buy and sell houses in residential areas of towns in the county, others may be purchasing a dream cottage in the glorious Somerset countryside or a beautiful old town-house in Bath or Wells. All these have their own potential legal problems, and a Conveyancing Solicitor will provide expert professional service in all areas of Somerset, and can advise on local matters affecting properties in the area. The county is also popular with people looking for a retirement home, either in a seaside location or in the heart of the country.

Buying or selling a house in Somerset requires the expert services of a Conveyancing Solicitor which Fridaysmove can provide.

These are some of the particular areas where local knowledge is invaluable:-

1. Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas

Bath is justly famous for its Georgian architecture, and although houses in the principal streets and squares attract premium prices, other areas still offer the opportunity of buying property in this beautiful city at more reasonable figures. Many of the older properties are now split into apartments, which will offer attractive living-space in the city centre. Bath is now designated as a World Heritage Site, and the city is within a conservation area, while many buildings are Grade II or even Grade I listed. Buyers of such properties require expert advice on the implications, and checks have to be made to ensure that any previous conversions or alterations have received the necessary approvals.

Homes in many other parts of Somerset may also be within conservation areas, or listed buildings, so advice from a Conveyancing Solicitor with in-depth local knowledge should be obtained.

2. Modern Developments

Although many outsiders think of Somerset as a very rural county, there has been considerable development in more recent years, and many towns such as Weston-super-Mare, Taunton, Bridgewater, and Yeovil have expanded considerably. At Portishead the old dock site was completely re-developed to provide a substantial number of apartments and houses, providing a popular residential area near to Bristol. Somerset Conveyancing Solicitors will therefore be well-experienced in handling the legal work on the purchase of new-build homes, as well as dealing with subsequent sales of such properties.

3. Rural Homes

It is true that much of Somerset is still unspoilt countryside, including the magnificent Mendip hills to the north of the county (including the world-famous Cheddar Gorge. ) To the south are the Quantock and Blackmoor hills which while perhaps less spectacular offer some beautiful country, and in the west the Brendon hills rise towards Exmoor. The larger part of the area covered by the Exmoor National Park is actually within the county of Somerset, not Devon. Country homes within the county are sought after, but buyers of such properties should make sure that they receive the best legal advice. Many such properties do not adjoin public roads, so buyers must be certain that the house enjoys a legal right of access. Also drainage may be to a septic tank, which could be on a neighbour’s property, and a Conveyancing Solicitor will be able to obtain the necessary information and advise accordingly.

4. Flood Risks

Much of Somerset is low-lying, and some parts are actually slightly below the level of high tides. There is a huge difference between the heights of high and low tides in the Bristol Channel, and in the past many areas were subject to inundation. Over many years since medieval times walls and dykes have been constructed, so that the sea no longer floods the area. Weirs have been constructed so that the rivers draining into the Bristol Channel only flow out when the tide is lower than the height of water in the river; when the tide rises, gates automatically shut so that the sea cannot flow upriver. This has enabled huge areas of agricultural land to be created, famous as the Somerset levels, providing excellent grazing for the cows which provide milk for the substantial dairy industry in the region. A feature of this region is the drainage ditches, locally known as "rhynes" some of which run for considerable distances.

While the established towns and villages were established on higher ground which would not be affected by flooding, a lot of modern development has taken place on these low-lying areas. Because of concerns about flooding, developers are often required to carry out extensive works such as the construction of flood walls and ponds, and improvement or relocation of existing flood defences. On some of these developments, such as those at Portishead, property owners may be required to contribute to ongoing maintenance of such works.

Conveyancing Solicitors can check if a property is in an area where there is a significant risk of flooding. In recent years flooding has affected more properties, and those which are seen as being at high risk can be expensive (or even impossible) to insure. This will affect property prices, so it is something that must be checked.

5. Coal mining and Environmental concerns

It is now often forgotten that at one time there was a thriving coal-mining industry centred on the Radstock/Midsomer Norton area, but mining was also carried on in other places such as Nailsea and parts of what is now Bristol. Workings have long-since ceased, and there is little or no surviving evidence of pits, but it is still advisable for coal-mining searches to be carried out on the purchase of properties in these areas to ascertain whether there is evidence of previous subsidence, or any likelihood of subsidence occurring in the future. Generally speaking there has been little industry within Somerset, although there has been a certain amount in Bridgewater.

Environmental searches can be carried out as part of the Conveyancing process to ascertain whether a house might be in an area potentially affected by previous industrial operations in the vicinity, and a Conveyancing Solicitor with local knowledge will be able to advise.

The following is an example of a property purchase in a rural village on the North Somerset coalfield:

In May 2010 Fridaysmove Conveyancing Solicitor Catherine Williams acted for Mr & Mrs H on the purchase of a delightful stone-built freehold house in the attractive village of Coleford, Somerset BA3. The vendors' Conveyancing Solicitors were Robinsons of 2b Bath Street, Frome, Somerset, BA11 1DG, and they sent through the draft contract and other documents once the agents, Lewis Gray of 3b Cork Street, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BL, had confirmed sale details.

This was a typical purchase of a larger detached property with a large garden in a Somerset village location. Coleford lies in the north-east of Somerset, and on receipt of the contract papers Catherine checked that the title was in order, and also ordered a local search to be carried out with Mendip District Council. She also faxed some additional enquiries about the property to the sellers' Solicitors.
Coleford stands on the north Somerset coal field, and there were collieries in the vicinity which have long since closed. Enquiries indicated that there was no record of this property being in an area affected by old coal mines, and there was no risk of subsidence.

The local search indicated that there was a higher than normal risk of radon gas in the area. Radon is a naturally-occurring gas which is particularly associated with certain types of rock, and is therefore more prevalent in some parts of the country than others, depending on local geology. In certain circumstances it can build up in houses, and this is perceived as creating a potential health risk.

Modern buildings in affected areas will incorporate design features to ensure that the gas is dissipated to the outside, but problems tend to arise where older properties have had modern insulation and double glazing installed, which may stop natural ventilation preventing any build-up of the gas. The sellers stated that they had not had any check for radon made while they had owned the house, nor had they carried out any remedial works. The radon risk was not sufficiently great that a radon check was considered essential, but the buyers were given advice about the gas.

The environmental search showed that the property was potentially at risk from natural flooding, but further enquiries ascertained that the property in fact stood somewhat higher than the nearby river, and the vendors were not aware that it had ever been flooded. Buildings insurance cover did not present a problem, so it was not necessary to investigate this further.

The clients were asked to check that the Land Registry title plan correctly showed the extent of the land surrounding the house. This is always important but especially so in the case of more rural homes with large garden areas. It is not uncommon to discover that there are discrepancies and if so, the reason for these has to be ascertained. Sometimes householders buy additional land from an adjoining owner but this is not properly recorded at the Land Registry, while neighbouring owners may adjust the boundary between their properties without any legal transfer document. In this case there was no problem, and Catherine produced a report on title for her clients, so that they could proceed with the purchase.

6. Flats and other Leasehold Property

Many modern developments comprise flats and apartments, either in new purpose-built blocks or conversions of older industrial or commercial buildings, including several former hospitals. There are also numerous flats in the county which have been created by the splitting up larger houses, while purpose-built maisonettes are not uncommon in some areas. Apart from the occasional freehold flat, these are generally held on leasehold titles.

Conveyancing Solicitors dealing with the transfer of such properties will cover such additional matters as advising on the provisions of the lease, getting and checking details of the management of the building (especially important for apartments in larger blocks) and service charges, as well as ensuring that there are no outstanding issues with the freeholder or management company which may cause problems to the purchaser.

7. Rentcharges and Freehold flats

Parts of Somerset, particularly the North Somerset area including Clevedon, Weston-super-Mare and Burnham-on-Sea, are known for two legal peculiarities, Rentcharges on freehold property, and Freehold flats. These are rarely encountered elsewhere in the country. There are separate features on this web-site giving more information about these, but a Conveyancing Solicitor with the requisite local knowledge will be able to offer appropriate advice should either of these situations be encountered.

The following case illustrates some of the problems which can arise when buying such properties:

Acting for buyers of a property in Berrow Road, Burnham-on-Sea, TA8, Fridaysmove Somerset Conveyancing lawyer Jaaine Intarajah discovered that the property was a freehold flat in a larger building which was also subject to a rentcharge. The flat was in an older house, situated on the main road running through the seaside town of Burnham.

Sales details were received from local agents Gary Berryman of Commercial House, 46 High Street, Burnham on Sea, Somerset, TA8 1PD confirming that the price was approximately £130, 000.   The sellers were represented by Linda Shipway, Licensed Conveyancer, in Nailsea Somerset. As soon as she received the draft contract and copy title documents, Jaaine was able to check the title and raise some additional enquiries about the property. She also initiated a local search with Sedgemoor District Council, the local authority for the area. The council offices are in Bridgwater, and the area administered by the council covers a large area of central Somerset including the towns of Bridgwater, Burnham on Sea, Highbridge, Axbridge and North Petherton.

The Land Registry title showed that the property comprised the first floor of the building, with a ground level access and a rear garden area. The property was stated to be subject to covenants and restrictions contained in 1967 and 1968 deeds, and the whole building with other land was subject to an annual rentcharge of £68 imposed in 1899. The sellers' Conveyancer was asked to supply a copy of the old deeds, and enquiries were also raised as to whether the sellers had done anything which might be a breach of these restrictions. As this appeared to be a freehold flat, it was essential to ascertain that the deeds contained appropriate cross-rights and covenants between the owners of all the flats in the building, to ensure that there were proper arrangements for the maintenance and upkeep of the building.

Very few lenders are prepared to lend on freehold flats. Unfortunately for the buyers they had applied for a mortgage with a lender who would not usually lend on such property, but the lender's surveyor had assumed that the flat was leasehold and a mortgage offer had been issued on that basis. Once it was realised that the title was freehold, the lenders had to be notified, with the result that they withdrew their offer. This was a setback for the purchasers, but as they were anxious to buy this property, and the sellers realised that other purchasers would encounter similar problems so they were they were willing to allow time to enable another mortgage application to be made. The clients were advised to approach one of the few lenders who would entertain mortgage applications on freehold flats, and were finally able to obtain an offer from such a lender.

Once a satisfactory mortgage offer was issued, Jaaine was able to proceed with the preparation of the report on title, and the buyers signed the contract and Transfer deed, as well as their mortgage deed. A final completion date was then agreed and the transfer eventually completed.

Somerset Conveyancing in Conclusion

Needless to say, Somerset Conveyancing carries with it a particular combination of considerations and potential danger areas. A Solicitor need not be locally based if they have local experience, and are able to watch out for these risks.

Instructing a Conveyancing Solicitor for a Somerset Property transaction can therefore be a gamble, but with Fridaysmove, you can be  assured that only Quality-assured Solicitors are welcome on our panel handling the Somerset region. A Fridaysmove Solcitor will be proactive and will drive your sale forward, at a cheap No Move, No Fee rate you can trust.

Your Solictor will not compromise on these small details (explored in this article above) that really do make the difference between an expensive nightmare, and Fast, Cheap Conveyancing in Somerset.

Get a quote for Conveyancing Solicitors in Somerset.