If you are selling a house with a mineshaft, there are some issues that you need to be aware of.
Even if your home is structurally sound, you may find potential buyers are reluctant to buy a house with a mineshaft either underneath it or in the garden.
The mineshaft might also be in a neighbouring property but could still affect your potential home sale.
The problem is that there are thousands of miles of former coal mining systems across the country so it’s likely that if you are buying in an area where mining took place, your conveyancing solicitor will carry out a search.
It’s worth noting that the Coal Authority has a site where it’s easy to check whether your property has been affected by coal mining.
From this site, they have a story about an unrecorded mineshaft being found under a road, in East Lothian, Scotland.
This is a rare occurrence since most mineshafts have been diligently recorded and safely capped.
They have also previously published figures that show that around one in three homes in some areas of England and Wales have been built above a former coalfield.
A conveyancing search for a house with a mineshaft
As mentioned, if you know that there’s a mineshaft underneath your property or garden, then you will need to reveal this with the full disclosure documents.
If not, you run the risk that the buyer’s conveyancing solicitor will carry out a search with the Coal Authority to reveal:
- Any mine entry points that are within 20 metres of your property’s boundary;
- Coal mining hazards that have been reported in that area;
- Coal mine gas emissions;
- Future coal mining plans in the area.
As mentioned earlier, the mineshaft doesn’t have to be on your property to be an issue that may put off a buyer.
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Understanding a mineshaft conveyancing search
The buyer’s conveyancing solicitor will find evidence that your house comes with a mineshaft because all known mine entries that are within 20 metres of a property’s boundary will be known as a ‘shaft’, or an ‘adit’. To explain:
- Mineshaft: A mineshaft is a vertical entry point that gives access to a mine. They are usually 2.5 metres wide and used to transport supplies, minerals and workers. Most mineshafts have been capped and filled in.
- Mine adit: A mine adit is typically a horizontal entrance for an underground mine and these were generally used for water drainage, ventilation and to extract minerals.
There are some issues when a mineshaft has been capped because the early mines that were capped after production stopped were done with timber, usually railway sleepers.
That means they are liable to disintegration and leave a layer of soil that covers the shaft itself.
This cap will then fail, and the mineshaft will be revealed – running the risk of taking any other coverings placed in the garden or driveway at the same time.
Can a mineshaft cause subsidence?
When a mine is in operation, the water that floods the mineshaft will be pumped to the surface so the miners can work safely.
However, when the pit closes, these water pumps are switched off so the groundwater will then rise to the surface and cause the mine structure to collapse or degrade.
It’s this collapse that may cause surface movement which could lead to buildings moving or even collapsing into the mine.
To help, the Coal Authority has published an interactive map of disused mines to highlight where known mineshaft entries are close to your property.
When you visit the site, you’ll see there are large tranches of the country with potential mineshaft issues including areas in South Wales, West Yorkshire, Lancashire, and the Midlands.
There are also mineshafts in Kent and the North East, plus Glasgow and Edinburgh.
How to sell a house with a mineshaft
There are a number of issues when you want to sell a house with a mineshaft, and the biggest one is that most mortgage lenders tend not to consider forwarding a loan on a property that has a mineshaft close to it.
It’s also unlikely that you will be able to obtain buildings insurance too.
This is despite the prospect of having a coal mining report that is positive and showing that the property is in no danger.
Can I get a mortgage if my home is close to a mineshaft?
Not only will a potential buyer struggle to find a mortgage to buy a home that’s close to a mineshaft, but the homeowner may also struggle to find a new mortgage lender.
This is one of the big issues for those who have bought properties in years before without knowing they were buying close to a mineshaft and have effectively become trapped in their homes that they are unable to sell.
The reason why mortgage lenders are wary is that a mineshaft will bring significant added risk and it’s this risk that could make your property unsellable.
However, there are mortgage lenders who may be willing to offer a loan on a property close to a mineshaft, but they will insist on various precautionary steps that must be taken before you apply.
Essentially, the lender is looking for reassurance that the mineshaft is not going to pose a risk to the house in the foreseeable future.
It’s also worth appreciating that if a neighbouring property has a mineshaft, that this mineshaft is unlikely to cause problems to the security of properties that are nearby.
Again, there’s an issue of adding some risk to the property’s stability in the future.
This means the property could fall in value so the mortgage lender will be wary of agreeing to a loan.
And since there are thousands of abandoned mineshafts around the country, it’s not always apparent that a house has a mineshaft close to it.
What will mortgage lenders check for a house near a mineshaft?
When a mortgage lender wants to check a mineshaft close to a house, the conveyancing solicitor will order a mining report from the Coal Authority.
This report is available for homes in England, Wales, and Scotland and there is some reassurance since the Coal Authority has a duty to cover any damage caused by a property’s proximity to a mineshaft.
This protection not only applies to coal mines, but also to brine mines.
And since there are other types of mineshaft that have not been documented, a mortgage lender will probably ask for further reports plus review a review of the property before they confirm a mortgage application.
As a home seller, it’s a good idea to understand what these checks and reviews are and consider carrying them out before you put your home on the market.
Getting a mortgage for a house near a mineshaft
As the home seller, it shouldn’t be a concern of yours over whether a buyer can get a mortgage for a house near a mineshaft – unless you are struggling to find buyers.
Then you will need to understand what the issues are because you may have to drop the house price to attract a buyer.
As we have seen, there is a potential risk for any house that is close to a mineshaft because the potential buyer may see issues in the future such as:
- The formation of a sinkhole;
- Soil erosion;
- Contamination of surface and groundwater.
And it’s not just in well-known mining areas that a mining search will bring peace of mind.
The mining search is not a legal requirement but knowing that the home you are buying is not at risk will help secure a mortgage.
The conveyancing solicitor will carry out a ground investigation to see what the potential risks are from a mineshaft.
They need to ensure that the property will be safe for long-term occupation.
Things to consider when selling a house with a mineshaft
If you find a buyer interested in your property, it’s likely you may have to sell at a lower price than other properties in the area because your home will be considered to be ‘blighted’.
And while the property will be covered by the Coal Mining Subsidence Act 1991, the buyer will be able to make a claim should something happen with a mineshaft.
You need to appreciate that the buyer will be taking a risk of the property being swallowed by a large sinkhole that suddenly appears because of the shaft.
As the house seller, you can also opt for an ‘interpretive report’ from the Coal Authority or engage specialists. They will:
- Provide a report that shows that the property is not liable to subsidence and will be a safe investment;
- Carry out an on-site inspection or even a walkover survey to determine the ground’s stability quickly.
Their report will also offer a rating risk of either high, medium or low and may include recommendations for further action.
The firms who carry out a walkover survey will be doing so with a ‘competent person’ that is could be a:
- Mining engineer;
- Mining geologist;
- Geotechnical engineer;
- Mineral surveyor.
There are also geo-environmental engineers available to complete surveys such as these.
What happens when a coal mine has been closed for years?
There’s also an issue that most mines have been closed for many years so there’s little sign, if any now, that mines were working in that area.
There’s also little or no evidence that the mine could cause a problem for homeowners because the former buildings may have been grassed over or built on.
Older mines were often not properly filled in or capped when the mine was closed. It’s these older structures that might see old shafts collapse and cause damage to homes.
Advice when selling a house with a mineshaft
When selling a house with a mineshaft you need to be prepared that there is an extra obstacle in the way of a smooth sale – but a mineshaft doesn’t make selling impossible.
Indeed, you could do some work yourself with the Coal Authority and find out if there is an issue.
You also need to be prepared to lower your price should potential buyers be put off – you may find that a cash buyer looking for an investment won’t mind buying a house with a mineshaft.
The first thing to do, however, is to speak with a local estate agent who has sold houses with a mineshaft previously and use their expertise and experience in finding a buyer.