Building on Church land – A saviour for the housing market?

In a time where the demand for affordable housing is at an all time high, some Christian charities are urging the Church of England to sell off some of its 100,000+ acres of land in order for social housing and affordable homes to be built.

However will such properties be subject to the medieval chancel repair liability and what is the current legal position?

What is chancel repair liability?

Chancel repair liability affects parishes in which there is a medieval church. Such obligations stem from medieval times where land, previously owned by the Church to fund the local rector, had been sold and the new owner took on the repairing obligation attached to that land.  Basically, any property located within the boundaries of a Parish where such a liability exists could be “caught”. The penalty is financial in that it involves having to pay for the upkeep and repair of the chancel of the local medieval parish church.

What is the current law?

Before 13 October 2013, Chancel Repair Liability was an “overriding interest” meaning that it was enforceable against the land owner even if they were unaware of it and the liability was not registered.

From 13 October 2013 the law relating to liability for Chancel Repairs changed and the right to demand chancel repair costs is only enforceable if a notice has been registered in the title to the property, or as a caution against the first registration of the property.

Is a Chancel Liability Search still required?

In most cases the changes mean that a Chancel Liability Search may no longer be required.

It is only necessary to undertake a Chancel Liability Search if the property you are buying:-

  • Has not been registered with the Land Registry (i.e. it is unregistered); or
  • The property has not been registered since October 2013; or
  • The deeds indicate the property is subject to a chancel repair liability charge.

However, the Land Registry has since confirmed that it will continue to register a notice on the registered title even after the property has been transferred (clear of chancel repair liability).

What does this mean for purchasers and conveyancers?

The position is somewhat unclear and conveyancing firms are trying to protect their clients as best as possible.

For more information about Chancel Repair Liability please contact your local Thursfields office and ask to speak to a member of the Residential Property Department. Contact details are available on our website.

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