UK: Chancel Repair Liability – Is It Still An Issue?

Last Updated: 24 August 2017
Article by Rebecca Thomas

Chancel repair liability has the potential to leave property owners with a large bill to pay towards the upkeep of their local church. In October 2013, the law relating to chancel repair changed so that chancel repair liability stopped being an overriding interest – but what does this mean in practice?

WHAT IS CHANCEL REPAIR LIABILITY?

Chancel repair liability is a financial liability imposed on landowners. The purpose of the liability is to fund repairs to the chancel of a medieval church. As the liability first arose in 855 (and has been subject to numerous changes since that date), attaches to the land and can extend to property situated a long way from a church, it is extremely difficult to say with any degree of certainty whether a particular property is affected. Even if you have a new build and have no idea where the nearest church may be, there's a risk that you could be asked to pay up. It affects commercial properties in the same way as residential properties. And while it's unlikely – though not impossible – that a tenant will be directly liable, there's a good chance that liability will be passed on under the terms of the lease. Essentially, if you have an interest in property, you may be liable.

Liability is usual personal and several: what this means is that although yours may be just one of multiple properties subject to the liability, the church is still able to pursue you for the entirely of the bill – it is then up to you to claim a contribution from other landowners. The case that most people have heard of is the 2003 House of Lords decision in which the Wallbanks were found liable to pay a £100,000 bill for the repair of a local chancel. Following this decision, it became standard practice for purchasers to carry out chancel searches and, where necessary, to purchase insurance to cover the bill if a claim is ever made against them. If you acquired your property since this decision you may well have insurance which was put in place at the time of the purchase; however, if you acquired before this it is unlikely that you will.

Before 13 October 2013 there was no need for churches to protect the right to claim for chancel repairs: the very existence of the right was sufficient to enable them to make a claim. However, in anticipation of this changing, a number of churches that benefit from the right to claim for chancel repairs applied to the Land Registry to place a notice of this right onto affected registered titles: around 250 churches registered notices against more than 12,000 properties. These notices ensure that Churches will be able to make a claim at a future date – it doesn't mean that they are intending to, only that they are making sure they don't lose their right to do so.

If a notice of this kind was placed on the registered title to a property on or prior to 12 October 2013 it cannot be removed unless you can prove the church doesn't in fact have any right. For unregistered properties, the right could be protected in a similar way by lodging a caution against first registration.

WHAT CHANGED IN 2013?

From 13 October 2013 chancel repair liability ceased to be an overriding interest. So, what does this mean at a practical level?

DID CHANCEL REPAIR LIABILITY END ON 13 OCTOBER 2013?

No, liability did not end. Landowners may still find themselves responsible for chancel repair liability in the following circumstances:

  • The current freeholder already owned the property prior to 13 October 2013.
  • The current freeholder acquired the property on or after 13 October 2013 but didn't give "valuable consideration" for it (it's not completely clear what amounts to valuable consideration – market value certainly does, but a transaction at any kind of an undervalue may not).
  • The right to claim has been noted on the registered title of the property.
  • A caution against first registration was lodged and a notice of the right to claim was added to the registered title when the property was first registered.

IS A CHURCH STILL ABLE TO REGISTER NEW NOTICES IN RESPECT OF CHANCEL REPAIR LIABILITY?

Yes, in the following circumstances:

  • The freehold of the property is still owned by whoever owned it prior to 13 October 2013.
  • The freehold of the property has been transferred to a new owner, but the new owner did not give valuable consideration for it.

It is also worth being aware that Land Registry practice is to accept and register new chancel repair notices without examining whether these are valid – the burden to object to the notice then falls upon the landowner. This means that even if you acquired a property since 13 October 2013, with no notice on the title, there is a risk that a notice will be added – you will be told that it has been added (so it is essential that addresses for service are kept up to date) and you will then have to go through a process of requesting that it be removed. It is hoped and expected that in these circumstances the Land Registry will simply cancel the notice, but it you are in the process of trying to sell the property this will inevitably cause delay while the issue is resolved.

IF I ACQUIRE A PROPERTY NOW, IS THERE A RISK IT WILL BE AFFECTED BY CHANCEL REPAIR LIABILITY?

Yes, you may still find yourself responsible for chancel repair liability in the following circumstances:

  • The right to claim has already been noted on the registered title of the property.
  • You're buying an unregistered property for which a caution against first registration was lodged and a notice of the right to claim is added to the registered title when the property is registered.
  • There's no valuable consideration given for the property (for example, it's a gift, is left to you in a will or you pay a reduced price to buy from an associated seller).

However, you should not be liable if you pay full market value for a property and no notice of chancel repair liability was lodged on or before 12 October 2013.

DO I STILL NEED TO CONSIDER CHANCEL CHECKS AND INSURANCE?

Yes, in the following circumstances:

  • You are not giving valuable consideration for a property which has not been transferred for valuable consideration since 13 October 2013.
  • If buying a registered property, there is a notice on the title of the right to claim – there's little point in doing a check as you know the liability exists but you will still be able to obtain insurance against the risk of a claim being made.
  • If buying an unregistered property, there is a caution against first registration in respect of this liability (as above).

If you are buying a property which has not been transferred for valuable consideration since 13 October 2013, you need to be aware that the church is able to lodge a notice of chancel repair liability right up until the transfer completes. It is standard practice to obtain a priority search before you complete the purchase: this gives you 30 business days protection, during which time any other applications are deferred to yours. However, if a notice of chancel repair liability is lodged during this period, Land Registry standard practice is to add the notice to the register as soon as your transfer is completed, giving you notice that they have done so: it will then be up to you to contest it and get it removed. It is presumed that this would be done, but as this cannot be guaranteed we would recommend carrying out a chancel check and, where necessary, obtaining insurance in these circumstances.

IF I ALREADY OWN A PROPERTY SHOULD I DO ANYTHING TO PROTECT MYSELF?

If you acquired the property for full market value on or after 13 October 2013 and there is no notice on your title there is no need to take any further action to protect yourself: there is a small risk that a church may now try to register a notice on your title but this notice will not be valid and you should be able to get it removed.

Owners who acquired their property prior to 13 October 2013, who do not have any notice on their title but who are concerned that they may be at risk of liability may wish to consider carrying out a chancel search and, if potential liability is revealed, obtaining insurance, even if they are not in the process of selling the property. This cost of the chancel check is between £20-£115. If insurance is needed, the premium for this varies depending on the type and location of the property and the limit of the indemnity, but will be in the region of £50 (standard residential property with £100,000 indemnity) to around £250 (large commercial property with £1m indemnity).

Even if a notice of a right to claim has been lodged, it is usually still possible to obtain insurance, through the premiums will be higher – the cost will range from around £100 (standard residential property with £100,000 indemnity) to around £1,000 (large commercial property with £1m indemnity).

CONCLUSION

In summary, liability continues unless and until the land has been purchased, for valuable consideration, since 13 October 2013. Following such a purchase (assuming no notice of the right has been registered) the landowner will not be liable and nor will anyone who acquires the land from or through him. However, prior to such a purchase the landowner, together with any tenant or mortgagee, must be aware that chancel repair liability may still be enforced. In addition, there is a continuing risk that a notice will be registered against your title and the burden will be on you to remove this.

If you have any questions about chancel repair liability, or need help removing a notice or obtaining insurance, please contact a member of our real estate team.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.