What is Chancel Repair Liability and What You Need to Know When Buying a Property

When buying a property, be it your first property, or your second, or more, there are always a few things you need to be aware of when you make the purchase.

One is to have your financing in place, know how much you can be approved for in a mortgage. This will dictate how much you can afford, and how much you have to spend and work with.

No need looking at properties outside your price range only to fall in love with one, and be disappointed as you do not qualify for a mortgage.

We have mentioned in one of our blogs about the differences between a freehold and a leasehold property. This is important to know when buying a property, as some lenders can make it difficult to get a mortgage, depending on the leasehold.

Another “buzz word” to listen out for when buying a property is chancel repair liability. Not many people outside of the real estate/land world and mortgage world know of this term, however, it is important for you as a buyer to be aware of it.

A Brief History of Chancel Repair Liability

This is a brief, and I do mean brief, history of chancel repair liability.

The definition of chancel repair liability is “a legal obligation on some property owners in England and Wales to pay for certain repairs to a church which may or may not be the local parish church.”

This began as an “ancient law” which dates back to the 16th century, mid to late 1500’s, and was put into place by none other than the famous for loving wedding cake Henry VIII.

When King Henry dissolved the monasteries, as he did, as the land was sold, the responsibility of repairs to the church and “chancel”, passed to the home owners. So anyone buying one of these properties could be held liable for repairs to the church.

This means if you purchase a property that is in one of these areas, and there are estimates of 5,200 properties that could be affected by this liability, you could find yourself being hit with a huge bill for repairs.

And if you don’t believe this could happen, it can, and still does. Home owners are getting hit with large repair bills, and even trying to argue them in court can be costly.

In 2013 the chancel liability ceased to be automatic on properties sold after October 12, 2013, however the PCC or local Parochial Church Council, can register an interest against these properties, and this can remain in place until the next time the property is sold.

So how can you as a home buyer protect yourself against such a claim, insurance.

Chancel repair insurance.

Policies can go as high as £1 million of coverage on a residential property, and can be as cheap as £16, depending on the coverage.

So when buying a property, another thing to look out for, chancel repair liability.

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