What is Chancel Repair Insurance?

Chancel repair liability is an ancient law that requires certain landowners in England and Wales to contribute to the repair costs of their local parish church. This liability applies to land that was formerly owned by or had ties to the church.

Chancel repair insurance protects landowners from the costs associated with these repairs, including any legal expenses. By covering the potential costs of repairs, it ensures homeowners are not caught off guard by large, unexpected bills.

Key Points

  • Chancel Repair Liability: Homeowners may be legally responsible for contributing to repairs of local churches.
  • Insurance Protection: Taking out chancel repair insurance can shield you from unexpected and potentially significant costs.
  • Transfer of Liability: The church’s right to claim repair costs only ceases when the property is sold to a new owner.
  • Legal Advice: Your solicitor can help determine if your property is subject to this liability.

Is My Property Liable for Chancel Repair?

Liability depends on whether your property is within the boundaries of a medieval parish church. The responsibility for repairs can extend to homes far from the church in question. The Parochial Church Council (PCC) decides which properties must contribute to repairs, and the costs can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Often, the financial burden is not evenly distributed across the parish but may fall heavily on a few unfortunate homeowners.

If your property is liable, this responsibility is indefinite and transfers to new owners upon sale. The liability is tied to the land itself, meaning it persists even if the original structure is demolished and rebuilt.

How Can I Check if My Home is Liable?

Given that chancel repair claims are relatively rare, some homeowners might be unaware of their property's liability. Here are steps to determine if your property is affected:

  • Check Property Title Deeds: Sometimes, liability is noted on the deeds, but this is not always the case.
  • Solicitor’s Check: During the conveyancing process, your solicitor can conduct a chancel check search, which indicates potential liability.
  • The National Archives: You can search The National Archives for free to check for any potential chancel repair liability in your parish.
  • Paid Search Services: If the process is too complex, you can use a paid search service to investigate on your behalf.

How Do I Take Out Chancel Repair Insurance?

If your solicitor finds that your property may be liable for chancel repairs, they will likely advise you to take out insurance. You can also obtain this insurance through your own research. Chancel repair insurance, or chancel indemnity insurance, is available from specialist providers. There are two main types of policies:

  1. No Search Chancel Liability Insurance: Covers the possibility of liability without prior searches.
  2. Known Liability Chancel Repair Insurance: Provides protection if there is a known liability.

Is Chancel Repair Insurance a One-Off Payment?

Yes, typically, chancel repair insurance is a single policy payment made before completing the property purchase. The insurance generally covers up to £1 million and lasts for 25 years, although some policies may extend further.

Who Pays for Chancel Indemnity Insurance?

As the buyer, it is your responsibility to secure chancel liability insurance before finalising the property purchase. Given the relatively low cost of the insurance, it is a prudent investment to avoid potentially hefty repair bills in the future. Additionally, having insurance in place before completion protects against the church registering a notice of liability on your new home.

Is Chancel Repair Insurance Transferable?

Yes, most indemnity policies are tied to the property rather than the owner, allowing the policy to transfer to the new owner. However, increasing the coverage amount may require an additional premium.

How Does a Property Become Liable?

For a property to be liable, the church must have registered it with the Land Registry before 13 October 2013. Liability ceases for homes sold after this date if the church had not registered them. However, properties gifted or inherited after this date can still be liable, making it wise to take out cover if there is any risk.

If you bought your home before 13 October 2013, the property could still be liable for chancel repair. Therefore, it is essential to conduct the necessary searches and secure protection.

Can Chancel Repair Liability Be Removed?

If the church has registered a chancel repair notice for your property, it can only be removed if you can prove your home is not eligible. This might be the case if the property was purchased after October 2013 and the church did not register the liability beforehand. Keeping your contact details updated with the Land Registry is crucial to receive any relevant notices. If your property is mistakenly listed, you can formally object and request its removal from the register.

Is Chancel Repair a One-Off Payment or Can the Church Demand Repeat Payments?

If your property is liable, you could be asked to contribute to multiple repairs over time. This highlights the importance of securing insurance to cover potential future claims, which are often significantly higher than the cost of the insurance policy itself.

How Long Does Chancel Repair Liability Insurance Cover Me For?

Most policies cover you for 25 years, safeguarding against any chancel repair claims within this period. Some policies might offer coverage for as long as you own the property or even indefinitely, regardless of ownership changes.

Can Businesses Be Affected by Chancel Repair Liability?

While businesses could be affected, it is less common as most commercial properties are rented or leased. Liability typically falls on the property owner, not the leaseholder.

Has Chancel Repair Liability Been Abolished?

No, chancel repair liability still applies to eligible properties. The 2013 law change merely made it easier for property owners to identify potential liabilities. Properties purchased after 13 October 2013 are only exempt if the church had not previously registered a claim. Therefore, if there is any potential liability, taking out chancel repair insurance is advisable.

Have questions about this or any other topic? Ask our super smart AI powered assistant