Chancel repair liability is the historic liability for parishioners, attached to their property, to contribute for the upkeep of a church chancel. Under the Chancel Repairs Act 1932 the Parochial Church Council ("PCC") has the power to serve a demand on a property owner to pay towards the cost of repairing the chancel. If the owner fails to pay, the PCC can demand payment through the courts.
If a liability is established, that liability may be joint and several so that the owner of a particular property may be called upon to cover the whole cost of repairing the chancel.
Whilst any address containing reference to "Vicarage", "Rectory", "Glebe" or "Manor" may be indicative of a possible liability, it is important to note that the land in question need not be near a particular church.
How can I find out if my property is liable?
We use the "Chancel Check" search which establishes from records stored in the National Archive whether the Property falls within a parish that has a potential repair liability. Where appropriate insurance can be taken out which will cost on average £100 and somewhat more for commercial property.
A more formal search can be carried out at a cost of approximately £150. However, you should be aware that if a liability is discovered, you will no longer be able to insure against the risk of 'potential' liability. Enquiries of your local vicar or parish council may only serve to put them on notice of a possible claim against your property.
Should I be concerned?
A decision in the House of Lords resulted in a liability for one couple of £95,000. However, the court did express in its judgment the unfair nature of the liability and called for its repeal.
The law has now changed so that PCC's must have their chancel repair liability registered at the Land Registry against the title of liable properties by 13 October 2013. It is likely that before the cutoff date PCCs will make some efforts to register their interest.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.