Chancel Repair Liability

Do you live near a Church? Are you aware of Chancel Repair Liability?  And are you liable?

Chancel Repair liability (CRL) has become a hot topic since it was rediscovered in a big way in 2007 when Andrew and Gail Wallbank received a demand, and had to pay almost £200,000 plus extensive legal fees to fund repairs to their local church. If you live in or are buying a property near a historic church, you may need to know how this liability could affect you, and what measures you can take to minimise the damage.

Minesh Patel, Partner at stevensdrake explains: “CRL is an old liability for land owners which dates back to the medieval period.  Originally, rectors or vicars had the responsibility to pay for any repairs to the chancel of their Parish Church. This was paid for largely by tithes (a contribution from parishioners in return for using parish land) and income from glebe lands.  However, following the dissolution of the monasteries, the land that previously belonged to the church was divided up and sold, along with the CRL. One of the main issues is that there are no clear records to indicate whether or not CRL is attached to your land. Even if you are genuinely unaware you can still be liable to pay for what are often costly repairs. It does not matter whether the property is commercial, residential or agricultural”.

Minesh added: “However the good news is that this will all change in October 2013 whereby if a homeowner is to be held liable for repairs the liability must be registered against the affected property; otherwise the right to recover the costs of repairs will lapse when the property is sold. It is important to note that CRL will continue to bind owners of land before and after October 2013, even if the liability is not registered, until that land is sold to a third party. As from 13 October 2013, a new purchaser of land will not have CRL if it has not been registered by the church”.

Mr and Mrs Wallbank had to sell their property in order to pay for the chancel repairs, which is a position no homeowner should find themselves in. A search can be carried out to identify whether there is potential liability and often the best and most cost effective option is to obtain insurance against CRL. However insurance will inevitably become more expensive and may not be available for properties where a liability is registered.

For advice or information on CRL or anything contained in this article, please contact our commercial property team for details on 01293 596900 or email minesh.patel@stevensdrake.com

Minesh Patel, Partner

This article is provided for general information only. Please do not make any decision on the basis of this article alone without taking specific advice from us. stevensdrake will only be responsible for the advice we give which is specific to you.