Chancel Liability – More Dangerous Than You Think?

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It has been nearly ten years since the infamous case of Aston Cantlow v Wallbank, where a couple were forced to pay around £230,000 to their local parish church for repairs, reported here:-

After the case, the couple stated that they thought ‘Chancel Repair Liability’, the ability for a church to force a landowner to pay for repairs to the ‘chancel’ section of a church, was a “dead law that wouldn’t affect us”. This ‘dead law’ resulted in the couple selling their property to cover a near £500,000 bill when legal costs were accounted for.

10 years on, should a prospective buyer still be worried about the ancient law?

From 13 October 2013, Chancel Repair Liability is no longer deemed an ‘overriding interest’ meaning that if you buy a property for full market value, the liability is not enforceable. Now, a church may only enforce the liability is the transfer of the property was not for valuable consideration or if they have noted their interest on the title register. This means your conveyancer should be able to easily spot whether there is a risk to you and advise accordingly.

However, the Land Registry’s approach to the reforms has meant that a notice may be entered even after 2013 and even if the property was purchased for full market value. This means that there may be nothing noted on the title in relation to Chancel Liability, but it may still bind the owner of the property later down the line. Therefore, however unlikely it may seem, Chancel Repair Liability is still a risk that needs to be covered by your conveyancer.

If you want to avoid being in a ‘Wallbank’ Situation, ensure that your conveyancer carries out all the correct checks and searches, and insures against any risks appropriately.

For advice on buying a property, please contact a member of our team or visit for a free conveyancing quote.

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