The issue of Chancel Repair Liability is one that many people will not need to consider when purchasing a property, but it is still a very real and tangible law that, if not addressed, can lead to extremely high financial costs in the future.
Chancel Repair is an ancient law forcing certain landowners to pay for local church repairs. It originated from when local rectors owned land in the parish and who were responsible for repairing the church using money produced from the land. The laws and liabilities associated with the land remain to this day and have affected various individuals living within the parishes of churches built before 1536.
In a recent case, a couple received notice from the Land Registry informing them that their local church had registered its right to make them contribute to the cost of chancel repairs. Following an 18 year legal battle to overturn the law, the couple were ordered to pay more than £200,000 in church repairs and were forced to sell their home in the process.
Such a law has come under a sizeable amount of criticism in recent times with numerous groups campaigning for the liability to be abolished. The National Secular Society, for example, has been petitioning the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, since 2014 and has described the current laws as ‘tantamount to financial vandalism’. The effects of the current laws are clear however; parishes affected by this potential liability have seen their property prices drop systematically with the homeowners suffering huge financial loss.
One of the main problems with chancel repair is the fact that it may not necessarily appear on the title deeds. For this reason, it is advisable to take out insurance against potential liability claims when purchasing a property, with premiums costing from around £50. In cases where the liability is already established however, insurance premiums can rise to thousands of pounds, or even be declined altogether.
Should you receive a notice from the Land Registry requiring you to contribute to the cost of chancel repair, your first option should be to negotiate with the church to come to a reasonable agreement. Should, for any reason, an agreement not be reached, legal advice should be sought at the first available opportunity to advise you of your rights in law.
At Seatons, our team of highly trained legal professionals have a wealth of experience in conveyancing matters and provide clear, easy to understand legal advice at low sensible fees. For more information, feel free to give us a call on 01536 276300.