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What are the CHANCELs you have heard of Chancel liability?

Chancel repair liability is a legal obligation on some property owners in England and Wales to pay for certain repairs to a church which may or may not be the local parish church. The basis of chancel repair liability goes back hundreds of years to Henry VIII and the establishment of the Church of England. The chancel is that part of a traditionally laid-out church containing the altar and where the clergy and choir sit – usually at the east end of the church.

Why is it needed?

Due to its age old origins, it was considered by many to be extremely unlikely for churches to force any property owners to pay chancel repair costs for the churches. However, the case of Aston Cantlow PCC v Wallbank (2008) changed this view as the claimants in this case were ordered to pay chancel liability amounting to £215,000 plus VAT! The claimants did not know of chancel liability because at the time of their case, chancel repair liability was classified as an “overriding interest.” These interests affected a property even when there are not mentioned in the registered title.

What has changed since the Aston Cantlow PCC v Wallbank (2008)?

Chancel repair liability has not been abolished. As of 13 October 2013, chancel repair liability is no longer an “overriding interest” under the Land Registration Act 2002. This means that those benefitting from the interest (i.e. churches and their parish councils) need to protect their right to be able to enforce their interest against those purchasing land on or after 13 October 2013. However, even if the Church has not registered a notice by October 2013 does not mean the Church has lost their right to apply for registration! This right would only be lost once a property with registered title changes hands for “valuable consideration” (i.e. for money or something else of value, not as a gift) or when an unregistered property is first registered. Moreover, a Church could still register a notice for chancel repair liability up until the expiration of a priority search (which is made just before completion).

The role of Chancel Indemnity Policy:

We offer Chancel Repair Indemnity Policy for free as part of our standard conveyancing searches. This means that this indemnity policy protects against the financial claim from the local church and pays for the costs if there is a liability due even where a notice for chancel repair liability has not been registered with the Land Registry (after 2013).

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