Chancel repair liability is associated with the reign of Henry Vlll so many felt it might have been appropriate if it had been axed.
But the historic property right – which requires a small number of homeowners to pay for the repair and maintenance of their local Anglican parish church – has not been killed off.
The widely publicised 12 October deadline for registering the right with Land Registry has clarified the legal position but has not removed the liability.
Land Registry’s role
In recent months, we’ve received applications from many parochial church councils seeking to protect their rights in advance of the deadline. As a result, we have been and are sending out notices to householders informing them of their position.
We are the government department responsible for registering the ownership of land and property in England and Wales.
We also record rights and interests that affect it, such as chancel repair liability. We have a statutory duty to respond to requests for registration of these interests.
Our independent role means we cannot offer legal advice or provide reassurances about what the notice means to any particular person.
Who is now liable?
The owner of any property where chancel repair liability is now recorded in its register at Land Registry may be asked to pay by the church authorities.
No other properties in England and Wales can
be completely free of the chance of liability until they are now sold with no such notice in their register.
This means that parochial church councils in England and the Representative Body of the Church in Wales can continue to apply to register chancel repair liability for years, decades and centuries to come.
But if they fail to identify and register their right before a property is sold, the liability may disappear forever if it is not already in the register or referred to in the deeds where the property is unregistered.
They will, in addition, have to pay an application fee that was waived in the run-up to the 12 October deadline.
And of course, they can choose not to enforce the liability.
Origins of chancel repair liability
The 12 October cut-off point was set by Parliament in 2002. The intention was to help clear up uncertainty over which properties were subject to chancel repair liability and other ‘overriding interests’.
The origins of chancel repair liability – the chancel being the part of the church containing the altar and the choir – lie in the 16th century sale of monasteries’ land under Henry Vlll.
The monks’ liability to pay for the repair of the chancel passed to the new owner. When properties built on the land were first registered from 1862 onwards the liability was very often not recorded but it was still enforceable.
That will continue to be the case for properties that have the
chancel repair notice in the register. If you buy a registered property where there is nothing indicating that the property is liable, you won’t normally be liable to pay.
You can read more about chancel repair liability and other interests such as manorial rights and mines and minerals in our guidance on Historical rights that could affect your property.