What is a Chancel Repair Liability?
Chancel repair liability is a requirement for some homeowners to pay towards the cost of repairs to the chancel of a nearby church, which can often be expensive.
Although the liability for chancel repair has been around for hundreds of years, it was a case surrounding a church in the village of Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire that brought the issue to the forefront.
Mr and Mrs Wallbank were owners of a farmhouse which they had inherited. They were contacted by the church representatives of the local medieval church in respect of a repair bill running into thousands of pounds.
Although the couple sought to challenge payment, ultimately the Court made a decision that it was necessary for the couple to contribute towards the church repairs. Consequently, due to the repair bill and legal costs, the Wallbanks had to sell their home. As a result, there became a real risk that people who owned properties whereby chancel repair liability applied could face a bill for large sums of money.
For free initial advice on buying, selling or remortgaging a property with chancel repair liability, get in touch with our Conveyancing Solicitors.
Am I Liable to Pay?
At the time of the case above, establishing whether a chancel repair liability applied to a particular property or not was far from straightforward. Although chancel repair could be referred to in the Title Deeds, this wasn’t always the case. Even an enquiry of the seller may not need lead to accurate information as churches historically didn’t always ask for payment. Very often chancel repair liability was an ‘overriding interest’, which is an interest in the land binding the owner of a property, although this interest may not be apparent from the Title Deeds.
Due to the difficulty in establishing chancel repair liability and in the face of a real risk of homeowners being faced with a bill for costly repairs, it became standard during the Conveyancing process to conduct a chancel liability search and/or put in place a chancel repair indemnity insurance policy to guard against potential financial loss from a chancel repair claim.
There is good news for some homeowners who could have been potentially faced with this problem. Although before 13th October 2013 there was no requirement for churches to protect their right to claim for repairs, this is no longer the case. In order for a church to have an automatic protection, all PCCs had to register the liability with the Land Registry by 12th October 2013.
Although on the face of it, this would appear to remove much of the risk of chancel repair liability, some risk is still present until the property is transferred after the relevant date to a buyer for ‘valuable consideration’.
Therefore, there could still be a risk of chancel repair liability to an existing homeowner who bought the property prior to 13th October 2013 or an owner who had the property transferred to them after this date but not for ‘valuable consideration’.
Of particular note to potential buyers is that if the property you’re buying hasn’t changed hands for ‘valuable consideration’ since 13th October 2013, the church may still register a notice of chancel repair liability and a risk of a claim may still apply.
Therefore, although the changes have eased some of the pressures from a potential claim for chancel repair, there are still some circumstances when a chancel repair search and/or indemnity policy would be advisable and our Conveyancers can discuss these circumstances with you.
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