Wednesday 19 July 2006 3.31pm
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.