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Chancel repair liability – medieval madness continues to reign

Chancel repair liability – medieval madness continues to reign

Tuesday 10th November 2015

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The Land Registration Act 2002 gave historic interests such as crown rents, tithe rents, manorial rights and most notably chancel repair liability (CRL) status as overriding interests. CRL is a legal obligation on some property owners in England and Wales to pay for certain repairs to the local parish church.

In an attempt to phase out CRL these historic interests were given a ten year deadline by the Land Registration Act 2002 which ended on 12 October 2013. It was initially thought that a failure by the Parochial Parish Council to register those interests before that date would mean they were lost forever. In practice, interests are only lost when there has been a transfer of value, which of course might not take place for many years to come. During this time it would still be possible for the Parochial Church Council to register their interest and burden the freehold owner with chancel repair liability.

The scenarios in which a landowner could potentially be liable for chancel repairs can be summarised as follows:

  • The property was owned prior to 13 October 2013
  • A transfer of land has taken place but valuable consideration was not provided (what amounts to ‘valuable consideration’ is not certain but we should be careful if the property has been transferred for a figure under its market value)
  • CRL has been registered by the Parochial Church Council against the property
  • A caution and a notice to claim were added to the property upon first registration.

In order to confuse matters further, the Land Registry have stated that they are still accepting the registration of unilateral notices and cautions against first registration from the Parochial Parish Council, regardless of whether a sale for value has taken place. Whilst this should not affect the position on liability, it will require legal action to rectify the registration and challenge any claim by the Parochial Parish Council.

Throughout the years there have been numerous efforts made to either phase CRL out or abolish it altogether. The first reading of Lord Avebury’s Chancel Repairs Bill 2015 took place in June and its aim is to end chancel repair liability. The chances of the bill moving forward are slim however after the Government went on record just a year ago stating there were no plans to change the law on this area.

In summary, uncertainty looks like it shall continue to cloud this archaic area of law. The first basic point should be to check title deeds for any reference to or protection of the liability. If there is no reference, it would be appropriate to perform a search and advise clients to take out insurance if a potential liability is identified. Finally, with the proposed changes mentioned above in mind practitioners should keep track of any developments that are likely to affect this area of law.

If you would like more information about this please do not hesitate to contact either:

Rupert Jackson 

Head of Agriculture, Liverpool
Tel: 0151 600 3396
Email Rupert


Jamie Hurworth

Trainee Soliticor
Tel: 0151 600 3145
Email Jamie