Beware Chancel Repair Liability When Buying a House?
If you are buying a property (flat or house, old or new-build) that is in the boundaries of an Anglican Parish Medieval Church and the Church was built prior to 1536 then you may be subject to Chancel Repair Liability. This means that the Church could enforce the homeowner to pay for the full amount or contribute towards the repair of the Chancel in the Church. The Chancel is the space around the altar in the Church, used by the clergy and choir during the service of worship.
The liability for the costs to repair the chancel is attached to the house as it’s based on the land that it resides on, and is not linked to the homeowner being a member of the Parish Church or the individual.
This liability is enforceable through the Chancel Repairs Act 1932 against the homeowner and is a legal process, enforceable through the County Courts which could demand unlimited sums of money to repair the chancel. You may read about the Church as claims made by the PCC; the Parochial Church Council Committee.
How to check when buying your home, if you will be affected by the Chancel Repair Liability?
Ask your Conveyancing Solicitor to carry out a ‘chancel repair liability search’ which will identify if your home could be at risk. The title deeds of your property may identify that it has been registered by the Parish Church as being liable for costs; and a claim can be made for the full cost of repairing the chancel or to make a contribution.
Though some churches may not have identified those properties at risk as it’s not compulsory, so it’s still worth checking if your property sits on land within the boundaries of the Parish within a Medieval Church.
On 12 October 2013, through the Land Registration Act 2002, there were significant changes to the Law relating to the Chancel Repair Liability. This enabled the Parish Church to register their right to claim against properties so they could potentially make a claim in the future for costs for their Chancels and protect their rights to claim. So the Parish Churches registered these with the Land Registry.
There is legal noise about this topic which can be complicated, for properties which have been registered and those which have not been identified for chancel repair liability. It’s also not true that chancel repair liability has been abolished; so it’s worth checking with your Solicitor and also considering the following:
- Check if there were any previous claims for chancel repair liability made against the previous homeowner, paid or ongoing as this is still may be an open risk against the property.
- The Law Society and HM Land Registry may have relevant information to help you identify chancel repair liability if it’s unclear.
- If the property is identified at risk and there has been no prior claims, the risk still exists against any future homeowners and any unlimited amount could be requested. The risk still remains open against the property.
- Some Parish Churches as previous mentioned may have identified properties under the chancel repair liability and some may not have disclosed this. The Conveyancing Solicitor will undertake key chancel repair searches.
- Speak with any of your neighbours to discuss this and remember it applies to commercial as well as residential properties.
- For rights registered on or prior to the 12 October 2013, it can’t be removed unless the homeowner has evidence to prove there is no right.
Protecting yourself from a claim for chancel repair liability against your house
As a homeowner, you could be at risk of a claim for payment from the Parish Church, which is uncapped to repair their chancel. Here are some pointers to protect yourself when buying a house:
- If title deeds of your Property shows it’s registered for chancel repair liability and is at risk for a claim by the church, then take out appropriate chancel liability insurance to cover the bill if a claim is made against you.
- If you are buying a house and it’s not been registered by the Church for chancel repair liability, it’s still worth buying appropriate chancel liability insurance. The Church can lodge a claim right up until you complete on your house. However if you bought your property after the 12 October 2013 and there is no notice on your title deeds and the church does lodge a claim, then there could be the possibility of getting it removed though this is not guaranteed.
- Sometimes there may be flexibility with the Church of England which fall within charitable organisation, and you may read this is as PPC (Parochial Church Councils Powers), to agree to sign a confidentiality contract to withdraw any notice for chancel repair liability.