Chancel repair is a liability which requires contribution towards the repair cost of the chancel; the space around the alter, of a parish church. Prior to the church reformation chancel repairs were the responsibility of the rector, however when the land was solved after the reformation the liability of the chancel repairs went with the land regardless of how the land was sold or divided. The church has since had the discretion to ask all affected landowners for contributions or even only ask the wealthiest landowner to pay the full repair amount, luckily if there is a potential risk, insurance can be purchased to protect against this risk.
So, how bad could this be?
In 2003, a case was heard in the House of Lords where the church looked to Mr and Mrs Wallbanks to pay £100,000 to the church to repair the chancel, which the couple argued. The courts found in favour of the church, meaning that the couple needed to sell their house to pay for the repair costs and the legal fees of both themselves and the church which totalled over £300,000.
With the Church of England having financial responsibility for 45% of the country’s Grade 1 listed building, they believe that this financial burden is not possible to maintain without any funding. The chancel repair is included in this method of funding and therefore all calls to abolish chancel repair have yet to be successful. It is believed 5200 properties could be registered as liable for chancel repair.
There have been some recent changes to chancel repair though, meaning that from 13th October 2013, repair liability will no longer become an ‘overriding interest’ on affected land and will not bind landowners. Instead the chancel repairs will only bind future purchasers of the affected land if the liability has been registered at Land Registry. The church will now have to decide whether to register the liability from but they only have from the 12th October 2013 until the property is next sold for ‘valuable consideration’. However, as this took affect from 13th October 2013 any properties purchased before the 12th October 2013 could still be at risk of having chancel repair registered against it until it is next sold.
If there is a chancel repair liability registered against your property it is important that you find out by having it properly checked, so that you can object is necessary. If however, you don’t already have insurance and the chancel repair is valid you may still be able to get insurance but premiums could be high.Talk to our legal team