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Update on chancel repair liability

Chancel repair liability is a liability on some property owners in England and Wales to fund repairs to the chancel (the altar area where clergy and choir often sit) of the local medieval-founded church.

A chancel search can highlight the possibility of a liability to pay a chancel repair. If the search shows that there is a liability then a property owner can take out an indemnity insurance policy to protect against this risk.

The law has changed recently. The Church Commissioners for England had a duty to register the liability by 13 October 2013 or the liability would lapse. However, it has now become clear that this is only true if the ownership of the property changes after 13 October 2013 – otherwise the liability will continue.

Even where a property is purchased and the transaction is completed after 13 October 2013, a liability may still exist until the property is registered in the purchaser’s name. This interest can be protected before registration, with a land registry priority search.

Chancel repair liability has the potential to be an expensive liability against your property. If you are in any doubt about this issue or concerned about the possible impact on your property or your planned property purchase, please feel free to contact a member of our residential property team for advice.