There are some common misconceptions about chancel repair liability. Here, we seek to clarify two of them.
The first relates to the level of insurance a purchaser should seek for a potential chancel repair liability. This is unlikely to be the value of the property - as is the case with other title insurance policies - because the value of any potential claim is not linked to this, but to the value of the chancel works instead.
Without undertaking a survey of the relevant church and enquiring into specific plans afoot (of which there may be none), the value of the works is unknown. There is no right answer as to the level of cover that should be sought, and this must be considered carefully in each case. The value of the property alone may be insufficient or excessive.
The second misconception relates to the date 13 October 2013, a key one under the Land Registration Act 2002, but not the date on which chancel repair liability ceases to be an issue.
The aim of the 2002 Act was to make the land register as complete and accurate a record as possible of the title to land. Overriding interests run contrary to this principle as they are a special class of interests which are protected against a purchaser, but they are not apparent from the registered title of land.
Chancel repair liability is one such interest. On 12 October 2013, its status as an overriding interest comes to an end; but importantly, it is not abolished.
After this date, chancel repair liability must be registered against title to land if it is to bind a purchaser for value of it. A liability to pay for chancel repairs can still be noted on the title to land so long as it has not been sold and the liability defeated.
Houses regularly change hands, but swathes of development land does not, so it may be many years until a transfer for value of that land takes place, bringing with it an end to the ability to register a chancel repair obligation against it.
Chancel repair: The future
Chancel repair liability will remain an issue for years to come although it should become clearer where it actually applies.
At the moment, purchasers of land have to consider a potential liability that may attach to it. From 13 October, any chancel repair liability that will bind a purchaser should be apparent from the registered title, or protected against a first registration of unregistered title.
Some aspects of the future for chancel repair liability remain uncertain. We do not know to what extent chancel repair insurance will remain available for the more limited range of circumstances in which it might be prudent to rely on it. Nor do we know to what extent parochial parish councils will seek to register chancel repair liabilities.
Awareness and vigilance are important. For the future, watch this space.
We consider chancel repair liability frequently in relation to our work, have you considered it in relation to your own property?