By way of background, chancel repair liability has its origins dating as far back as the reforms set in place by King Henry VIII. In simple terms, a chancel repair liability is a requirement for a landowner to pay for the repair of the chancel (the part of the church containing the alter and the choir). After the reformation, when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and sold off the land, the liability passed from the rectors to those who acquired the land. From this point chancel repair liability passed to those who subsequently purchase or took a lease of the land.
If you are acquiring an interest in land, as from the 13 October 2013 any chancel repair liability must be registered with the Land Registry if it is to be enforced against you.
However, failure to register will not extinguish the chancel repair liability altogether as a current owner will remain liable until the land is sold. After the 13 October 2013, in respect of registered land, it is only successors in title who will take the acquired land free of the chancel repair liability if the liability is unregistered (i.e. if the liability has not been protected by a notice in the register).
If the title of land is unregistered, as from the 13 October 2013, any transferee will take the land free of chancel repair liability if it has not been protected by a notice in the register at the time of first registration. (This may come about as a conveyance of land will trigger compulsory first registration and the right to demand payment for chancel repair may be protected by lodging a caution against first registration. If a caution has been lodged then the cautioner will be notified of the application for first registration and it may object to the application. The cautioner may protect its interest by entering a notice on the register.)
The information provided in this article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Any law quoted in this article is correct as at 14 August 2013. Appropriate legal advice should be sought for specific circumstances before any action is taken. Copyright © Murrell Associates Limited, September 2013.