Chancel repair liability

If you’ve bought or inherited property within the parish boundaries of a church, you may be faced with a bill for chancel repair liability. This can be expensive.

To cover you for local church bills, it's worth considering chancel repair liability insurance. Here’s what you need to know. 

Confused.com doesn’t compare specialist home insurance that covers chancel repair. This guide is for your information only.

British church in the daylight

What is chancel repair liability?

Chancel repair liability relates to an ancient law that requires some landowners in England and Wales to pay for the maintenance of their local church.

The maintenance is for the chancel of the church, where you find the altar, pulpit and choir.

This law dates back to medieval times. But it was updated in 2013 and is still in force.  

If you own land within the boundaries of a parish church built before 1536, you could be faced with a chancel repair liability bill. Even if you don’t attend church, you might still have to pay. 

There’s the option of getting chancel repair insurance which should cover you if you’re asked to pay the church. But, luckily, the chances of getting such a bill are small. 

Did chancel repair liability end in 2013?

No, but the rules were updated in October 2013. Chancel repair liability is no longer considered an ‘overriding interest’. 

This means that chancel repair liability has to be registered at the Land Registry for it to still affect a property. 

Churches were expected to register liability before 13 October 2013, even if they didn’t plan on billing homeowners. 

Churches can still register liability unless the land or property has been sold since 12 October 2013. 

This means, if you bought a home after October 2013 and there was no notice registered, you're unlikely to get a chancel repair liability bill. 

But if you were gifted or inherited the house before October 2013 and still own it now, you may be liable. 

If liability has been registered on a property by the church, it must be stated on the title deeds to inform potential buyers.

Is my house liable for chancel repair?

If your home or land is within the parish boundaries of a medieval church, you could be liable for chancel repair.

But, due to updates to the law, chancel repair liability shouldn’t affect people who bought property after 2013 - unless the church has already registered liability.

You should be able to check if your house is liable by looking at your title deeds. But evidence of the church claiming for chancel repair isn’t always recorded.

Before buying a house, instruct your solicitor to carry out a chancel repair search. This should reveal if the property is liable for chancel repairs.

These searches can cost between £20 to £100 depending on which type of search you choose. These searches usually take 5-10 days to complete.

Are new build houses liable for chancel repair?

If your house was built after 13 October 2013, you're unlikely to be liable for chancel repair.

But the church is still able to register interest in the property with the Land Registry, even after this date.

This should be shown on the title deeds, but this isn't always the case. Check with your solicitor to be sure.

Although the developer may be aware of the church and the property’s position within the parish boundaries, they may not know whether it’s actually liable.

How much does chancel repair liability insurance cost?

Chancel repair liability insurance is different from other policies as you pay through a single payment. But how much you pay depends on what type of policy you get.

If you haven’t had a chancel repair search carried out and you don't know whether you’re actually liable, the policy could cost around £20.

If you know you’re liable and there’s a higher possibility of having to pay out, it could be more expensive. It could increase to around £40.

It’s important to note that we don't compare chancel repair liability insurance. But we can help you compare home insurance quotes.

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Do I need to buy annual insurance to cover chancel repair costs?

No, it’s a one-off payment that should cover you for up to 25 years.

You might be expected to pay for the policy before your completion date when buying the home. After 25 years, you need to renew the policy.

But you don't have to worry about making an annual payment as you would when renewing buildings or contents insurance.

How long does chancel repair liability insurance cover me for?

The length of the cover depends on the type of policy you buy.

Most chancel repair liability insurance policies cover you for up to 25 years. Others might cover you for as long as you own the property.

There are even some policies that cover properties forever. Check your policy carefully before buying, and shop around to find a policy that suits your wallet.