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Chancel Repair Liability When Buying a Home

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Are you in the process of buying a home in England or Wales? Then you need to be aware of various legal responsibilities and potential liabilities that may affect your property ownership. One of these is the chancel repair liability, which is a historical legal obligation that still exists today. Here we look at what this liability is, it origins, and how it can impact you as a homeowner.

What is chancel repair liability?

It is a legal obligation that requires some homeowners to contribute to the repair and maintenance costs of the chancel (the area around the altar) of a nearby Anglican parish church.

This responsibility dates to medieval times when wealthy landowners, known as lay rectors, were responsible for maintaining the chancel of their local church.

Over the years, the land associated with these lay rectors was subdivided and sold, but the chancel repair liability often remained attached to the land. As a result, some homeowners can find themselves responsible for the upkeep of their local church’s chancel, which can be expensive.

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How does it affect homeowners?

It can have significant financial implications for homeowners. In some cases, the cost of chancel repairs can run into tens of thousands of pounds!

In addition, the liability is often joint and several, meaning that the church can demand the full amount from any of the liable homeowners, regardless of their individual share of the responsibility.

Chancel repair liability is a legal obligation that runs with the land. This means that if you buy a property located within the boundaries of a Parish where such a liability exists, you will be responsible for the repair costs.

Identifying and managing chancel repair liability

Your conveyancer will conduct a chancel repair search to determine if the property you want to buy is affected.

This search will reveal whether the property is within the historical boundary of a parish that still has the right to enforce the liability.

There are several things you can do to help manage the liability including:

  • Negotiate with the seller. You can try to negotiate with the seller to either reduce the purchase price or request that the seller obtains chancel repair liability insurance on your behalf.
  • Get insurance: You can buy chancel repair liability insurance yourself, which will cover the cost of any repair claims made against you during your ownership of the property. This insurance is relatively inexpensive and can provide peace of mind.
  • Seek professional advice: Consult with your conveyancer or a solicitor to discuss your options and the best course of action based on your situation.
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Last Updated: April 24th, 2023

Phil Spencer

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