Although we have covered this topic previously on this site, many clients tell us they would like to learn more about the topic.

We know that the relevant law can be traced back to medieval times. The church has long been permitted to demand payment from owners of former rectorial land in certain parishes for the upkeep and repair of the church chancel. For those of you who are not familiar with the internal layout of a church, the chancel is the area around the altar.

We have a number of such parishes in Devon, which makes this an area of particular interest to people buying property in the county.

What is the chancel?
The Chancel is situated at the eastern end of a church and is reserved for the clergy and choir. It is usually separated by the Communion Rail.

Who is at risk?
Owners of any property that lies within a medieval parish; this includes newly built properties.

The liability to property owners ranges from a few quid to thousands of pounds. Claims for payment are relatively rare but the risk is greater if the liability is specifically mentioned in your title deeds.

The church has set up a special department to see that all properties at risk are registered.

Is there protection against any potential risk?
If you are buying a property then your solicitor will advise you about the possibility of insuring your property against the risk of chancel repair liability. The price of the policy depends on the value of your property, and is usually a one-off payment, starting from £60. This will usually cover you and your mortgage lender for at least 25 years. If you are buying or remortgaging a property which has been noted to be at risk, your lender will often insist on insurance being taken out.

You can make enquiries with the parochial authorities yourself, but be careful as this could prevent you from obtaining insurance.

Ultimately, buying a house is a huge financial investment so the cost of an insurance policy might be considered a sensible precaution.

Cut off date for Churches to register their interest – 13th October 2013 On the 13th October 2003 the Government introduced a Transitional Provisions Order. This means that ALL chancel repair obligations on home owners will end by the 13th October 2013 unless the church has already noted their interest with the Inland Revenue. After 2013, any liabilities that are unrecorded will not be enforceable by the church.

The worry to home owners who may be concerned that their property is potentially at risk is that the church may, between now and 2013 investigate potential liabilities on properties within their parishes. This again highlights the potential benefits of obtaining chancel repair liability indemnity insurance.

If you have any queries please contact Terese Kingman at Slee Blackwell 2 Lime Court Pathfields Business Park South Molton on 01769 575982 or email at terese.kingman@sleeblackwell.co.uk

The Uncertainty of Chancel Repair Liability: 2011 Update