Question: We are buying part of an old rectory and have been told that we need to be very careful about "chancel repairs". The estate agent just scoffs and says they won't apply from October 13 this year. What is going on?
Answer: Chancel Repair Liability is the requirement for an owner of land to pay for the repair of the chancel of the local Anglican church — that's the bit that contains the altar. A Chancel Repair Liability currently affects land even if there is nothing shown about it in the title documents but from October 13, 2013 this aspect of it will be abolished — but not Chancel Repair Liability itself, as some people seem to think.
After that date Chancel Repair Liability will not bind a buyer of a property if the liability doesn't appear on the title register held at the Land Registry. If it is registered (or the church gets it protected before the cut-off date) then it will still apply. Churches across the country are busy checking their records to see if there are Chancel Repair Liabilities that they need to protect.
If you complete your purchase after October 13, it should be evident if there is a liability simply by checking with the Land Registry. If you complete the purchase before October 13, remember that an unregistered liability could still apply under the old law. Your solicitor should carry out a search to check the situation at the relevant time and if there is a risk that liability could apply, you should consider getting indemnity insurance against it — and you might want to ask the seller to pay for it.
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These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.