This article has been submitted by Bowden Jones Solicitors
What is Chancel Repair Liability and why is it a worry for homebuyers?
Clients are frequently mystified when their Conveyancing Solicitor recommends that a ‘chancel repair liability search’ is conducted. This concern is hardly surprising as only a minority of homebuyers are actually aware of what chancel repair liability is. Equally, purchasers are often unaware that some homeowners can be made to contribute to the cost of repairing a church.
What is Chancel Repair Liability?
Chancel repair liability (CRL) is a medieval anomaly that granted Parish Churches powers to charge landowners for the maintenance of the chancel of the church. It is just as relevant to conveyancers today as when originally granted.
Is Chancel Repair Liability still relevant?
Some homeowners may have seen reports explaining that chancel repair liability is shortly being abolished, and that these searches will no longer be required. In fact the liability itself is not being abolished. However, certain changes have been implemented to make it easier to identify affected properties in the future.
Changes to Chancel Repair Liability
Since 13th October 2013, The Land Registration Act 2002 has stated that new owners of land will only be bound by chancel repair liability if it is entered into the land register by the Parochial Church Council (PCC) (2). Although the liability needed to be registered by this date with the Land Registry, CRL is still enforceable in certain circumstances where the liability has not been registered.
Aston Cantlow PCC vs Wallbank
The most high profile legal case involving chancel repair liability is Aston Cantlow PCC vs Wallbank. In 2009, the Wallbanks were forced to sell their home after losing an 18 year court battle against Aston Cantlow PCC and the couple were forced to pay for chancel repairs
After this case, it has become prudent for purchasers to undertake a chancel search and to take out chancel liability insurance if necessary. Chancel repair liability only affects a small number of home owners, however, if a Parish Church decides to enforce it, it can be costly.