What is chancel repair liability?

Back in 2003, a couple were hit with a £100,000 chancel liability repair bill by the Parochial Church Council. They disputed the amount and ended up with a judgment against them requiring them to pay £350,000 plus legal costs. This case is now infamous in the UK and is a stark reminder of why property buyers in the UK need to be aware of the potential chancel repair liability that could be imposed on them.

Chancel repair liability, whereby landowners and ecclesiastical organisations are responsible for repairs of churches, has existed ever since Henry VIII disbanded monasteries in the 16th century. The liability applies to land which was formerly owned by the church (rectorial land). This land won’t necessarily be in close proximity to the church to which is applies, which is why meticulous conveyancing is a must!

The Land Registration Act 2002 imposed a 10-year deadline for the Parochial Parish Council to register their overriding interest. Prior to this, the overriding interest meant liability could be imposed even if the interest was not registered and landowners would have no idea it existed. If the title was unregistered, the Parochial Church Council could register a caution against first registration (which has the effect of registering liability).

Does it still have any effect after 13 October 2013?

If you own a property with a registered interest, you are still liable to pay chancel repairs.

At Saracens, we can help you check whether it applies to you and how you can protect yourself from unlimited potential liability.

What happens if liability has not been recorded with the land registry?

After the 13 October 2013, new owners of land were not to be liable for chancel repairs unless liability had been registered. Unfortunately, this deadline hasn’t really operated as one. The Land Registry will still register interests of chancel repair liability, despite this date passing. When this deadline passed, it didn’t mean that the right to obtain chancel repair contributions ceased to exist.

However, if you bought the house after 13 October 2013 and no interest was registered, you won’t be liable – but read on to see why you may still need insurance.

If I buy a house near a church do I have to pay for repairs?

If an interest has been registered on the title or a caution against first registration has been registered, yes.

If you bought the house after 12 October 2013 with no interest registered (not just an interest you didn’t know about), you are safe. However, liability does not necessarily appear on the title to the house, so you may buy a house unaware of the interest.

Should I take out an insurance policy to cover potential liability?


If it is suspected or known that the land carries chancel repair liability, insurance is recommended. Liability can range from very small amounts to hundreds of thousands of pounds – not something you can budget for in the week along with the internet bill. This is because the Parochial Church Council doesn’t have to divide up the repair bill between all the relevant landowners, it can be sent just to you.

Our Advice

Saracens Solicitors have been accredited by the Law Society as operating the Conveyancing Quality Scheme, meaning we operate at the highest recognised standard for residential conveyancing. We can carry out title searches and advise you as to whether a property you are looking at is likely to be liable for chancel repair, or whether you are currently liable.

If you are seeking legal advice on chancel repair liability or any other residential conveyancing matters, please phone us on 020 3588 3500 to speak to one of our specialists.

Do you have any thoughts on this piece or experiences involving chancel repair liability? If so, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.