In our weekly legal column, the Leader, with the expert advice of the team at GHP Legal, sets out to answer some of your problems. Today's question is answered by licensed conveyancer Clare Lewis...

Can churches still claim against parish homeowners for Chancel repairs?

Q: My daughter is buying a cottage in a rural parish. Her conveyancer has advised her to take out Chancel Indemnity insurance in case the local church tries to hold her liable for chancel repairs. I had never heard of chancel repair liability, but having now read up on it I got the impression that such a thing no longer exists due to a change in the law. Please can you confirm the situation?

A: Chancel repair liability goes back hundreds of years and can apply to properties within a local parish in England and Wales, whereby the owners of those properties may be held liable to pay for repairs to their local parish church or else have a charge imposed on their property for the repair costs.

With churches getting older and repairs becoming more necessary and costly, the likelihood of claims under this ancient legislation came to a head in 2003, when the Church Council successfully won the right to impose a £100,000 charge on a homeowner. In 2012, as a result of this, the government of the time reviewed chancel repair liability. It was, however, not abolished. Instead, changes were made to reduce the impact on homeowners, who in many cases had no idea they were liable as there had been no requirement for churches to register their right to claim.

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Following the review, churches were required to register their right to claim with the Land Registry, entitling them to make a chancel repair claim in the future. The registration deadline was October 13, 2013, and the right for a church to claim after that date is only lost once a property with registered titles changes hands for "valuable consideration". This means a church can still register a notice at any point up until a priority search is made just before completion.

So that is why chancel repair liability searches and indemnity insurance are still advisable in some cases.

This question has been answered by Clare Lewis, a licensed conveyancer with GHP Legal. If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter, please visit our website and use the contact us form, or call us on: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194.