Chancel Repairs

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Wednesday 19 July 2006 12.22pm
Interesting one for the property law experts out there: we're in mid-conveyancing, and our Solicitor has just sent us the info pack including a report on our potential liability for Chancel Repairs. This is where you have a liability to repair the local parish church because your property is on land that used to be part of the rectory (which I don't think we are by the way....). This is not necessarily adjacent to the church. The 10 search just reports 'you might be liable' and by the way, you can insure against liability for 60.00 for 25 years cover.

This seems such a con - the report doesn't identify the parish or parish church (and it has to have been there pre-reformation for this to apply, as I understand). The solicitor refers to a case where some unlucky parishioners had to cough up 95,000 each (they occupied former rectory land), and mention it can be an urban as well as rural issue, so of course many people must take the insurance just for safety. However our prospective house is in a densely populated Victorian area within a parish created in the 19th century and with an 1867 church.

Anyone else encountered this apparent scam and scaremongering? If I hadn't googled Chancel Repair Liability and checked the history of the parish I might have been scared in to spending money, presumably a nice little earner for the insurance company (who also do the searches. hmmm...). Suspicious thoughts about commission payments to solicitors occur also...

Over to the property law experts....

Wednesday 19 July 2006 1.38pm
Gosh, is this move in the SE1 area?
Wednesday 19 July 2006 3.53pm
No, Kent coast . . . where the property is ever so cheap!
Wednesday 19 July 2006 4.24pm
What part? I went to school in Margate. Your right about the costs of property that way. Are you re-locating? Just being nosey so tell me to mind my own biz if you want. Your right about the costs of property that way.
Wednesday 19 July 2006 4.31pm
Interesting one. If it were raised in the course of an ordinary survey I would see it primarily as an arse-covering exercise by the surveyor / solicitor.

There is no definitive register to determine if chancel rights will apply (largely because, as you say, it's pre-Reformation only and they will disappear by statute in 2013).

However, about 10 years years ago, faced with a disasterous series of [imho] inappropriately speculative investments in the stock market, and no money left to pay things like clergy pensions, the Church Commissioners came up with the clever idea of putting heavy encouragement on parishes to enforce these ancient rights in order to relieve the financial burden on the Church [along with other great ideas like selling Church land off for developments, but don't get me started on that one].

In the case you mention, the couple sued both their solicitors and the surveyor for failing to make them aware of the possibility of the extent of their liability for chancel repairs. It also lead directly to the decision to phase out chancel repair liability by 2013 (something the Church strenously opposed).

I agree however, that a search by a specialist company which just happens to sell the insurance against it, and which can't definitely tell you what the church or alleged parish boundary is, is worth a cautious approach.

Most people will consider the 60 as cheap compared to the time that your solicitor will spend establishing the position, and that's probably what they make most of their money from.

It's supposed to be reasonably straightforward to research yourself. There's a leaflet here which explains how, although again it will probably cost you more in searches than the 60 insurance asked for.

Wednesday 19 July 2006 4.48pm
If it is phased out in 2013 then quoting for twenty five years insurance seems a bit cheeky...
Wednesday 19 July 2006 5.22pm
Sorry, should have explained in more detail.

From 2013, new owners of registered land will only be liable if the chancel repair liability is part of the entry shown in the land registry certificate.

Buy before then, and you may still be subject to an unregistered chancel repair liability, even if you keep the property beyond 2013.
Wednesday 19 July 2006 5.43pm
I think you are being a bit unkind to the Church Commissioners. I think the General Synod voted to abolish these ancient rights a few years ago but rather unexpectedly it was the Human Rights Act that stopped the Church from doing so. Because, I think, it unfairly affected the parishes who originally would have sold the land at a lower cost than market value due to the Chancel Repair Rights against them, and they would therefore be entitled to compensation if anyone takes that Right away, even if they havent claimed it for 500 years.
Wednesday 19 July 2006 6.09pm
I draw a pretty clear distinction between the actions of the Church in Synod and the actions of the Church Commissioners (although the Church Commissioners are supposed to report to and be accountable to the General Synod). And it's definitely a personal view [imho].

Interesting suggestion about the Human Rights Act though. The HRA protects the rights of individuals, not organisations and authorities, so the parishes wouldn't be able to claim, but I wonder if the concern was that someone could argue that they had sold the land for a value which reflected the potential liability, which liability was then extinguished making the land more valuable ? If so, not sure I would have fancied their chances of succeeding, even under the HRA... ;-)
Wednesday 19 July 2006 11.50pm
ADT & Siduhe: the way it is explained is that churches have till 2013 to get their interest registered at the land registry - they lose their rights to this if they don't, so the properties that are affected are presumably afected forever, but only if the liability is logged by 2013.

Jackie: Ramsgate as it happens. We did look at Margate, but it feels a little less alive than Ramsgate - an awful lot of closed shops, whereas Ramsgate's harbour did look great... 4 bed house for two-thirds the price of the flat we nearly bought in SE1, just too tempting - and four month's notice of being made redundant this month helped focus us a little:-)

All: Ramsgate parish was only created in mid-C19th, so if anything we're at risk due to the previous larger but sparsely inhabited parish of St Laurence, but presumably that must include pretty much all of Ramsgate, and I can't believe our Victorian house just happens to be lucky enough to be on the site of an old rectory property (the lay rectors being the ones who paid the upkeep of the chancel - top end of the church, whilst the rest was covered by the parishioners). It's not the whole parish, just those inheriting the liability from the rectory property. It just seems so far fetched.
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