06 December 2013 #Real Estate
Since 13 October 2013, changes to the status of chancel repair liability as an “overriding interest” means that there are certain implications for those owning and/or purchasing property:
Chancel repair liability attaches to certain pieces of land and creates a potential obligation to repair the chancel of a local parish church (the chancel is the space around the alter reserved for the clergy and choir and typically separated by steps or a screen). Repair liability is “joint and several” which means that it may attach itself to various properties in a parish but the cost for such repairs need not be recovered from all parties and the full liability could potentially be claimed from an individual property owner. Also, the liability can attach to any type of property including commercial and residential properties and could potentially be passed to the tenant of leasehold land.
Although rare in its instance, there have been cases where an owner of land has been obliged to pay substantial repair costs. Most notable, the case of Parochial Church Council of the Parish of Aston Cantlow and Wilmcote with Billesley, Warwickshire v Wallbank  UKHL 37 delivered a judgement from the House of Lords whereby the owners of the property in question were required to pay almost £100,000 towards the costs of chancel repair in addition to the Parish Council’s legal fees which were double that sum.
Until 12 October 2013, chancel repair liability was an overriding interest automatically binding a purchaser of land regardless of whether the right was registered against title. Happily, since 13 October 2013, it has ceased to be an overriding interest and will not be enforceable against any new buyers of property for market value where there right has not been registered against the property’s title or protected by a caution against first registration where land is unregistered.
However, the following points however should be borne in mind:
It should however remain possible for those potentially affected by chancel repair liability to insure against such an eventuality.