Chancel Repair Liability

What is Chancel Repair Liability?

Often mentioned as part of a conveyancing purchase there is often confusion about what Chancel repair liability it actually is.

Chancel repair liability enables approximately 5,200 pre-Reformation Church of England and Church of Wales parishes to demand money from owners of particular properties on former monastery land, to fund repairs to their church buildings.

Lay Rectors

These homeowners are called lay rectors, and they are liable for keeping the chancel. This includes the space around the altar at the liturgical east end of the building - wind-proofed and water-tight.

Repair claims are real and can be costly

The potential liability was highlighted in the Wallbank case in 2003. Churches began pursuing claims since the House of Lords ruled that Andrew and Gail Wallbank had to pay £186,986, plus VAT, towards the upkeep of St John the Baptist church in Aston Cantlow, near Stratford-upon-Avon.

They also had to pay legal costs of around £220,000.

A nearby farmhouse the Wallbanks also owned brought with it the legal requirement which they are now unable to sell because it has effectively been blighted by the liability.

Liability Repair Registration

Whilst instances of a parish church demanding payment from property owners have been few and far between, from October 2013 all Chancel Repair Liabilities must be registered as a charge at H M Land Registry. If they have not been registered once you complete the purchase of a property any future liability will not be enforceable.

The risk however remains that an application to register a liability will be made after you have exchanged contracts and become legally committed to the purchase but before you have actually completed the purchase and obtained the protection of the legislation. A policy of insurance can be taken out to cover this risk.

Please contact one of our team for more information.

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