What are Chancel repair searches?

What are Chancel repair searches?
Pete Mugleston

Author: Pete Mugleston - Mortgage Advisor, MD

Updated: May 3, 2023

What are Chancel repair searches?

A chancel repair search is the result of an anachronism that dates back to the 16th Century when Henry VIII established the Church of England.

Which is why many property buyers are understandably confused when their conveyancing solicitor recommends a search for chancel repair liability.

What is chancel repair liability?

Put simply, if there is a local church nearby, the homeowner may be liable for repairs to the church.

This dates back many centuries when the rector of the parish was responsible for repairs and upkeep of the chancery (church). This was paid for from his tithes, which is essentially a local tax attached to local land, and paid by the landowners.

Although dating back to mediaeval times, even in this day and age, some unwary home buyers can find that their home is built on land which is subject to chancel repair liabilities.

Could you be liable?

Liability is ‘joint and several’. What this means is that you, as landowner and even if you are not a parishioner, could be responsible for the full cost of repairs to the local church, which could conceivably run into hundreds, if not thousands of pounds.

In recent times, chancel repair liability was pretty much forgotten and it was generally accepted that churches were unlikely to force property owners to pay for the cost of repairs to their local church.

But with overheads rising, reduced income and many of these historical buildings requiring expensive repairs, especially to roofs, some churches may be tempted to take advantage of chancel repair liability.

What you can do to protect yourself

Given the financial implications, you’d expect that properties affected by chancel repair liability would be easy to identify, but this is not always the case, which is why asking your solicitor to conduct a chancel repair search is recommended if you’re applying for a mortgage.

The fee is usually not excessive, and you will find out if the property you want to buy is subject to chancel repair liability.

You can do this yourself if you prefer by carrying out a chancel liability search with the National Archives.

If you find out that your property could be subject to chancel liability, then it is highly recommended that you take out chancel liability insurance.

Premiums may vary, but for a standard residential property, you could expect to pay a one-off premium of around £25 (it may be more depending on circumstances) and will cover you against claims for up to 25 years after you’ve purchased the property.

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