Chancel repair liability

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In the case of Aston Cantlow v Wallbank and another (2003) the parochial church council served a notice on the defendants claiming approximately £95,000 for chancel repairs.  It was held that the chancel repair liability was enforceable.  As a result of this decision, the defendants would be liable for any future demands for payment and they would also find it difficult, if not impossible, to sell their property.

It therefore became common for conveyancing practitioners to obtain a “Chancel Check” search which would confirm whether the property is within a Parish that continues to have a potential chancel repair liability.  If a positive search result came back, a buyer would be put off obtaining a full search as these are expensive and if a definite liability was identified then it could make it difficult to obtain any indemnity insurance.  It was therefore considered cheaper and less risky to obtain an indemnity policy straight away rather than carry out any further investigations. 

Chancel repair liability is currently an “overriding interest”, which means that it will bind the property even if it is not registered on the title.  However, from 13 October 2013 a chancel repair liability will lose its status as an overriding interest and it must be noted on the title in order for it to be enforceable.  If it has not been registered, then a purchaser for valuable consideration will not be subject to the liability. 

If the land concerned is unregistered then a caution against first registration should be lodged.