Buying a House? What about the repairs of the church?

PUBLISHED: 12:53 29 November 2011

Carolyn Hughes

Carolyn Hughes

Archant

Under the Chancel Repair Act 1932, a parochial church council has the power to serve a demand for the cost of the contributions towards the cost of repairing the chancel of the church. In the event that the owner fails to pay, then the parochial church council can enforce the demand through the courts.

WHEN buying a house there are a lot of payments that you need to consider: the mortgage; Council Tax; insurance and utility bills to start with, but could you find yourself being liable to pay for the repair of part of a local church? Surely not in the 21st Century? Well think again as you could find yourself liable to contribute towards the chancel of the local church even though there is no mention of it in your title deeds.

The liability relates to the historic responsibility for the upkeep of a church being divided between the rector and parishioners. Parishioners’ responsibilities were eventually transferred by legislation to the church and do not cause a problem in property ownership. However, rectors were historically responsible for the upkeep of chancel of the church and when the lands of the rectory became divided by sale into private ownership, the responsibility to repair the chancel passed with the areas of land that were sold off to the new owners of the land. Even if the land is not adjoining a church, it does not mean there is no liability.

Under the Chancel Repair Act 1932, a parochial church council has the power to serve a demand for the cost of the contributions towards the cost of repairing the chancel of the church. In the event that the owner fails to pay, then the parochial church council can enforce the demand through the courts.

It is not known how many churches may be able to recover chancel repairs from people who own all or part of lands that were historically owned by the rector of the parishes, such as the church commissioners or cathedrals. Liability only effects land in parishes where the church dates back to the medieval period or earlier.

The liability can be difficult to discover and such an obligation is rarely referred to in the title deeds, but this does not mean that there is no liability.

At Archer & Archer we carry out a chancel check search, using a search provider, on every purchase transaction, which checks the data obtained from the National Archive to establish whether a property may fall within an area that has a potential chancel repair liability. If a potential risk was identified, we would initially contact the sellers’ solicitors to see whether the sellers will cover the cost of obtaining an insurance policy. If they are not prepared to pay then we would need to discuss this with you as the policy, following competition between insurance companies, can be obtained relatively cheap “once and for all” premium payment. No annual premiums apply.

It is possible that a full chancel repair search can be carried out at a cost of approximately £150. However, if you discover an actual liability as opposed to a potential liability, you will not be able to insure against it.

There is now legislation in place requiring parochial church councils to register chancel repair liability against affected property titles before October 13, 2013. Any liabilities not recorded against properties will cease to be enforceable against new owners after that date.

At Archer & Archer we take the time to explain the implications of house buying and selling and guide you through the process of buying a house. If you require advice on any property matter, contact Carolyn Hughes (pictured) on 01353 662203 or by email to cjh@archerandarcher.co.uk. or at our website at: www.archerandarcher.co.uk

Most Read

Latest from the Ely Standard

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists