Chancel repair liability is an ancient liability which requires land owners to pay for the repair of the chancels of Anglican parish churches.
Prior to October 2013 chancel repair liability was an overriding interest which means that although the liability may not have been protected on the land register it would bind any person who acquired an interest in the land.
On 12 October 2013 chancel repair liability lost its status as an overriding interest. To protect the right to utilise this liability Parochial Church Councils (PCC’s) are now required to apply to the Land Registry to note the liability on the titles to the properties which may be called upon to contribute. If, therefore, a property is purchased after 12 October 2013 a purchaser should know by looking at the title whether or not the property is subject to chancel repair liability. The effect of this is that if a property is sold after 12 October 2013 and the PCC does not note chancel repair liability the purchaser may buy the property free from chancel repair liability.
However, an important point to note is that last year’s changes have not resulted in the extinction of chancel repair liability as was expected. Furthermore, the Land Registry will note chancel repair liability against a title even if the application is received after 12 October 2013. It is therefore prudent to continue to undertake chancel repair searches: Whilst a post 12 October 2013 purchaser may purchase free from chancel repair liability, their successors in title may not be so fortunate if the liability is registered before they purchase.
A further point which should be noted is that it is not clear is what happens after 12 October 2013 if an application to note chancel repair liability is made between exchange and completion. After exchange a purchaser’s solicitor will usually undertake a priority search. This will prevent anyone else registering anything against the title for a period of 30 days. The Land Registry has said that if an application to register chancel repair liability is received during this 30 day period it will register the completion of the sale and the chancel repair liability at the same time. It is not yet known whether the purchaser will therefore be bound by the note of the liability.
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