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Chancel Repair liability

April 10th, 2014

In some rare instances, landowners are liable for the cost of repair of the parish church chancel. Under the Land Registration Act 2002 the Church of England had until midnight on 12th October 2013 to register all chancel repair liabilities. Prior to that date, a property owner could be responsible for chancel repair even though there was no reference to chancel repair liability in the title deeds to the property and they had no knowledge of the existence of liability.

Chancel repair liability lost its overriding status on 13th October 2013, meaning that after that date, a purchaser for valuable consideration will only generally be bound by liability if it has been protected by an entry on the title register, or in the case of unregistered land, a caution against first registration has been registered, or the liability is referred to in the title deeds.

Since a notice can be registered on the title register (or in the case of unregistered land a caution can be registered) at any time before the Transfer of the property is registered at the Land Registry, where potential liability to contribute towards the cost of the parish church chancel is revealed by a pre-exchange Chancel search, there remains a risk that a notice or caution is registered at the Land Registry between exchange of contracts and completion of the purchase. A buyer may take the property subject to the liability in this case. It may depend whether the registration has taken place within the priority period of the buyer’s pre-completion search and insurance can be put in place as a precaution to insure against the risk of registration of liability between exchange of contracts and completion. The insurance would need to be taken out prior to or on exchange of contracts.

A failure by the Church of England to register does not extinguish chancel repair liability. The current owner remains liable until the land is sold or voluntarily registered. If a property is transferred for no consideration after 13th October 2013, the transferee may still take the land subject to chancel repair liability even if the Church of England has not registered a notice or caution.

When buying a property, ensure that you ask your solicitor or conveyancer about possible chancel repair liability before exchange of contracts. We have a thriving property department and will be pleased to assist with the purchase of your next home or investment property. To discuss how our service might benefit you, and to receive a quotation, please contact us today on 01494 773377.

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