What is Chancel Repair?

Chancel repair is a historical legal liability in the United Kingdom that can require certain property owners to contribute to the cost of repairing the chancel (the area around the altar) of a parish church.

This liability originates from medieval times when landowners were responsible for maintaining the chancel as part of their obligation to support the local parish church.

The liability for chancel repair can affect properties located within specific parishes that have what is known as “chancel repair liability.” These liabilities were typically created before the Reformation in the 16th century when monastic properties were dissolved, and ownership of church lands and their associated obligations transferred to lay owners.

Chancel repair liability can be registered against a property’s title and can have significant financial implications for the property owner. If a property is subject to chancel repair liability, the owner may be responsible for contributing towards the cost of repairing the chancel if and when it requires maintenance or restoration. The liability can be triggered by events such as property sales, transfers, or changes in ownership.

It is important for prospective property buyers or owners to investigate whether a property is subject to chancel repair liability. A search known as a “chancel repair search” can be conducted to identify whether the property falls within a parish with such liability. If a property is identified as having chancel repair liability, it may be advisable to consider obtaining appropriate insurance or negotiate with the church to limit or eliminate the liability.

It’s worth noting that in 2013, the UK government introduced legislation to limit the extent of chancel repair liability for future property owners. However, this legislation does not fully remove the liability and does not affect properties already subject to the liability before its enactment. Therefore, it is important to seek professional advice and conduct the necessary searches when buying or owning property in the UK to ascertain whether chancel repair liability applies.

Please note that the information provided is for guidance purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.