Chancel Repair Liability – Should you still be worried about it?

  • Author: David Crosby
  • Posted on: 13th March 2014
  • Posted in: Blog

“There are probably only two examples of ordinary people having to shell out for the repair of a chancel in the past 100 years”...."In my opinion registering the liability should be really rare but there will be some circumstances when it probably will be reasonable”

Reverend Greg Yerbury

 A chancel is the part of a church containing the alter, sanctuary, and choir, usually separated from the nave and transepts by a screen.  If your property is in a parish with a vicar of a medieval church there can be a liability to contribute to the cost of repairs to the chancel of that church.    In the case of Aston Cantlow v Wallbank 2003 the Wallbanks were forced to sell their homes to meet the bill they received for repairs to their local church.  However this is extremely rare and the law surrounding continuing chancel liability is so complicated dating back to medieval times that not even the church fully understands it.

Until October 2013 chancel repairs liability existed as an overriding interest however the Land Registration Act 2002 took away from chancel repairs the status of an overriding interest and the church had until October 2013 to register the liability.  If the liability was not registered by 2013, liability is still enforceable against the then owner of the relevant land but only until he or she disposes of the land.   In unregistered land, the church needs to register a caution against first registration but cannot do so if there has been a change in ownership.

Therefore from October 2013 the church can still register the liability provided there has been no prior sale.   

If you are concerned about whether your property is subject to a potential liability you can do a simple ‘chancel check’ which can  be done easily through several search agencies for relatively small fee.  If there is a potential liability the same companies also offer indemnity insurance for a relatively low sum.   

Since April 2013 the Heritage Lottery Fund became responsible for providing charitable funding for the maintenance of churches in England.