News & Insights // Chancel repair search?

The potential liability for chancel repairs continues to be a real concern for many conveyancers, since the HL confirmed the validity of such claims in Aston Cantlow [2003]. The liability to contribute towards the cost of chancel repairs only affects parishes in which there is a mediaeval church. Whilst that will obviously affect many rural communities, it is also important to appreciate that it can apply in towns and cities (eg Brighton, Manchester, Bedford, Lancaster and even parts of London, such as Fulham, can be covered).
The theoretical answer is to do a full search of the records at the National Archive but that is frankly unrealistic; apart from the considerable time delay, it can cost as much as £150.

In recognition of the increased awareness of chancel repairs liability, the new edition of the Conveyanc/ng Handbook says that 'where the liability is not recorded in the title deeds, consideration should be given as to whether it is appropriate to make enquiries. Enquiries may be made using commercial products that determine if a property is located in a parish where there remains a potential to enforce chancel repair liability, but these products are not property specific... Insurance may be considered as an option following the results of a search, or as an alternative to searching'.

The main product in use these days seems to be ChanceiCheck which is advertised heavily in the legal press. This does an electronic search of mediaeval parish boundaries to see whether the property is within an at-risk boundary (but it is not property-specific). The cost is £10 + VAT. If the property is within such a parish then insurance is offered (eg £60 for £250,000 residential cover; £155 for £250,000 commercial cover). For more on this see our June issue (p7).

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