News & Insights // Major House of Lords case on Chancel Repair Liability: Aston Cantlow v Wallbank (HoL) - The Result

The Wallbanks have received the decision of the court with regard to the quantum of the costs of repair of the chancel for which they are liable.

The repair bill is £189,969 plus any VAT payable, plus legal costs estimated to be in excess of £400,000. The judgement appears to confirm that repairs go beyond simply “wind and water tight.”

The initial claim by the Church was for £6,000.

Andrew Wallbank stated:
“With the resurrection of this worrying medieval law no property can, at first glance be guaranteed safe from a potentially crippling liability. At the very least we strongly recommend that everyone should establish if they are in a “risk parish”.”

Mrs. Wallbank's father sought advice from the local PCC about whether the entry in their deeds relating to chancel repair liability was relevant. The advice given by the PCC was incorrect.

Contrary to recent guidance by Trevor Aldridge of the Law Society's Conveyancing and Land Law Committee (published in “Property In Practice”), contacting the church at any juncture is clearly not advisable. Not only would this approach place the church on notice, but any advice given by the Church can not be relied upon and does not provide any form of protection for the conveyancer or their client. This approach may also negate any indemnity policy purchased to protect against this potential liability.

The Conveyancing Handbook (13th Edition) states:

“Where the liability is not recorded in the title deeds, consideration should be given as to whether it is appropriate to make enquiries”.

ChancelCheck® and ChancelSure® remain the only instant, cost effective means of establishing potential liability and providing market leading indemnity cover (including diminution in value).

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