The words ‘Chancel Repair Liability’ may not mean much to many home owners, but for an unfortunate few this historic liability towards paying the financial cost of repairs to a church chancel could still cause them a problem.
Chancel Repair Liability reached a legal landmark on 13th October 2013 where Parochial Church Councils (PCC) had until this date to register with the Land Registry any land (and therefore homes built on it) to which the liability relates. If the liability has not been registered by this date, the liability is still enforceable against the owner of the land (as of 13 October 2013) to the time it is sold. It isn’t enforceable against any new owners who purchase the property, but it will still apply where property is inherited by or gifted to an individual.
The owners of listed and historic buildings are often at risk because of the situations of their properties.
Since the Land Registry Act 2002 under which these rules apply came into force, many people may have been advised at the time of purchasing their property about the risk of Chancel Repair Liability, but many that bought or acquired property before this deadline may still be unaware of their liability. It is only when the land has a new successor in title that it will be freed from the unregistered liability.
My advice to all property owners is to check NOW as to any potential liability, as although- to date -it has been rare, it can be very costly when it arises. Some homeowners in Stottesdon, part of the Diocese of Hereford have recently received letters informing them of their liability.
In the infamous case of Wallbank, the final payment was for £186,986 after an 18 year legal case. Given that many PCC’s were encouraged to register the interests before 13 October 2013 it may become far less rare in the future to receive a letter out of the blue about this liability. Naturally however no one wants the thought that they may have to pay for a large bill or at worst sell their house to pay a large bill hanging over them.
Adams & Remers is able to check potential liability for homeowners and should be able to offer a result within a day or so. The good news is that in most cases it can be insured against on a specialist policy for a low figure (usually under £50 except where a property is very large or expensive).