In September 2020, Groundsure launched GeoRisk, a new suite of mining and ground stability search reports .
We took inspiration from recent collapse events, in depth customer research and most importantly, guidance from the Law Society in the name of the Conveyancing Handbook.
I would forgive anyone who hasn’t perhaps read this cover to cover, as it is around 1,500 pages long, but it should at least be a reference point to anyone dealing with land and property transactions.
Now in its 27th edition, whilst it does not pretend to be a comprehensive guide to the law, it does bring together information which is not found either in conventional conveyancing texts or in some cases at all (Law Society, October 2020).
How does this relate to mining and ground stability?
The UK has a long history of surface and underground extraction, with over 60 different minerals being mined, quarried and extracted at some point in time. Not only this, our many different types of geology pose their own unique issues. Coal is a well known risk in the conveyancing world, with an official form being available and recourse to consumers under the Coal Mining Subsidence Act of 1991 (and as amended 1994). However, the issue of other man-made and natural hazards pose significant liabilities to homeowners, where any associated remediation or other costs become their responsibility.
So why, when best practice guidance says otherwise, are people shying away from all encompassing reports ensuring maximum due diligence? We believe that the risks from natural and man-made hazards have gone under reported for years. Perhaps this was due a historic focus on coal mining and a perceived need for solely CON29M compliant assessments – that missed out everything else, or the lack of availability of a single search. Did this lead to a laissez-faire attitude, and a lack of awareness in the market. But there is also something around sector inertia with this and how changes to established processes and risk assessment requirements are often unwelcome or even avoided. But change can be for the better, especially when it helps protect you and your clients from either a negligence claim or a collapsed home.
Section B 25.17.6 of the most recent edition of the Law Society Conveyancing Handbook states that “A property should be searched to identify whether further investigation of site-specific ground instability risks is required.” This is where our comprehensive GeoRisk Alerts come into their own. They allow you to quickly and effectively search a property against more than 40 datasets and are split into five key categories to identify if man-made or natural ground hazards are in the vicinity and if further investigation is required.
The Conveyancing Handbook then goes on to state in section 25.17.7 “If a property is located within an area where ground instability risks are likely to occur, solicitors should consider further investigation of the risks present. This may include obtaining a site-specific report from a commercial search company; residential and commercial search products are offered by a number of search providers. Search providers often offer an initial risk assessment of the information provided in the report. An assessment should include a professional opinion of whether the property will be affected by mining or natural ground stability and whether there is likely to be any effect on the value or enjoyment of the property.” This is where the GeoRisk products hit the ground running. Depending on the results of the GeoRisk Alerts, we offer two property specific reports: GeoRisk for properties affected by natural and made-made non-coal hazards or GeoRisk + for properties also affected by coal and/or Cheshire brine.
Whilst many still go under the assumption they “know their area” there are so many more risks these days that you need to be aware of, that it’s difficult to keep up. So let us do the hard work for you and ensure that no risk remains hidden underground by purchasing a Groundsure GeoRisk or GeoRisk + report for your clients.