Chancel Repair Liability: They Think It’s All Over…

Paul Hajek | 1 Nov 2013

Update: this blog has now been updated, and you can view it here.

This post is a bit more technical than normal and is a follow up to “Did Chancel Repair Liability Turn Into Another Millennium Bug
Parochial Parish Councils (PCCs) on behalf of the Church of England had  until 12th October 2013 to  register at the Land Registry, where applicable, against one or more relevant home or land owners, their ancient right to receive a contribution to the upkeep of the Chancel of their church.
The greater threat for home owners of registered land has probably now passed.
But, can we say Chancel Repair Liability is really now all over?.

What is the Chancel Repair Liability Position After the Deadline?

Despite what many people think, it will still be possible to register a notice of Chancel Repair Liability for registered land and a caution against registration for unregistered land.

As with most deadlines, there was a last minute rush to register.

Inevitably, perhaps, mistakes have been made by PCCs. The Church of England has already issued one apology in the case of the parish of Whittleford in Cambridge. 

I am sure that there will be a couple more which will come to light.

The Land Registry has, as a result, updated its guidance on overriding Interests (of which Chancel Repair Liability has been classed) in the last few days.

The Current Position with Chancel Repair Liability and Registered Land

The Land Registry states

Even if the interest has not been protected by the entry of a notice in the register the land will remain subject to it. But, unless such a notice is entered, a person who acquires the registered estate for valuable consideration by way of a registrable disposition after 12 October 2013 will take free from that interest. Until such a disposition is registered the person having the benefit of the interest may apply to protect it by entry of notice.

Translated in to plain English properties that were purchased and registered before 12th October 2013 will  still remain vulnerable to a registration of a notice of Chancel Repair Liability – until the property is next sold.

So that could be a matter of months but possible still many years.

And by the way, making a gift of the property will not count.

The Current Position with Chancel Repair Liability with Unregistered Land

Over to the Land Registry again:

Where any of the interests the subject of this guide have not been protected by notice or caution against first registration before 13 October 2013, they do not automatically cease to exist on that date. The position is as set out below.

The courts have still to consider if and when it may be possible after 12 October 2013 for the holder of the interest to have the register altered so that a notice is entered where the registered proprietor has taken free of the interest following first registration or following the registration of a disposition for valuable consideration. They have also still to consider whether indemnity may ever be payable where the register cannot be altered in this way.

Translated again into plain English, chancel repair liability will probably continue to exist in the same way as registered land. The Land Registry have covered themselves in the case of unregistered land as the Courts have not had any cases to consider.

I would hope that a common sense approach would prevail and that on a future sale of unregistered land, the new owner will simply not be responsible for any chancel repair liability which is not protected by a notice or caution at the time of first registration. End of!

What Does This Mean For Buyers and Sellers?

Annoyingly, it will still be standard practice for your Conveyancing Solicitor to recommend a Chancel search and/or take out Chancel Repair Liability Insurance.

Unless, that is, the previous purchase of the property was after 12th October 2013.

Who Should Pay For Chancel Repair Liability Insurance?

This has always been a bargaining matter between parties.

Seller, Buyer or equal contributions depending on circumstances.

However, if you are in the process of selling your property now or later, it should be for your Buyer to pay for the insurance.

Chancel Repair Liability: They Think It’s All Over..  

Would that it were so.

But, when someone tells you not to worry about Chancel Repair Liability because it’s all over.

Respond by saying “it may be all – but not just yet”

You can read the full Land Registry Guidance here


Paul Hajek

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