Chancel repair liability is a medieval anomaly that granted Parish Churches powers to charge landowners for the upkeep of the chancel of the church. Chancel repair liability is still an overriding interest and currently attaches itself to land regardless of whether or not the liability is noted against the title, making the prospective risk unquantifiable.
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Andrew and Gail Wallbank of Carno, Powys, inherited Glebe Farm near Stratford-upon-Avon after the death of an elderly relative. The farm includes a field called Clanacre which is classified as rectoral property and makes Mr. & Mrs. Wallbanks “lay rectors” of the Parish. Under the 1932 Chancel Repairs Act, “lay rectors” are responsible for the cost of repair and renovation works to the Church. After a series of legal challenges, including representations in the House of Lords and at the High Court in London, Mr. & Mrs. Wallbanks were found to be liable for a repair bill of over £200,000.00.
Misconception versus Fact:
In October 2013, the law relating to chancel repair changed so that chancel repair liability stopped being an overriding interest – but what does this mean in practice?
Chancel Repair Liability ended on 13th October 2013. If the liability has already been registered it is an obligation that lasts in perpetuity – so the conveyancer still needs to check the title documents. Properties cannot be registered by the Church after 12th October 2013. The Church STILL has the right to register their interest in perpetuity, except where a property has changed hands post 12th October 2013 for valuable consideration and the title has been registered. The Land Registration Act 2002 states that Chancel Repair Liability is no longer an overriding interest from midnight on 12th October 2013. Only at the point where the land has transacted and been registered at the Land Registry dose the ability for the Church to register a notice cease. Transferring Title will resolve the issue of liability post 12th October 2013. If a party received the property post October 2013 by gift, transaction at undervalue, inheritance or on divorce, it could still be liable as this doesn’t quality as “valuable consideration.” The Church is not looking to register any properties for Chancel Repair Liability. The Church has been advising its Parochial Church Councils to register all liable properties by this date to guarantee that they are allowed to, BUT this doesn’t mean that they can’t register after 12th October 2013.