22 March 2013 by

Don’t take a chance on chancel!

Part of the conveyancing process is carrying out a “chancel” search to determine whether the property you are intending to purchase carries a potential obligation to contribute towards the repair of the chancel in a local parish church.

The liability originates from medieval times – under medieval law, the rector of a parish church was responsible for the repair of the church chancel, which is the space around the altar.  Any property located within the boundary of the parish could be financially liable for the cost of chancel repair.

This cost can be significant and in fact the cost to one unsuspecting home owner was approximately £250,000 (not to mention the £200,000 they had spent on legal fees trying to fight the claim) back in 2003.  The law is changing, but not until 13 October 2013.

Since the 1980s there has been support for the abolition of the liability from both the Church of England and the Law Commission. The government made an order in 2002 requiring rights to chancel repair to be registered against the title deeds of properties within 10 years. If the chancel repair liability is not registered within that time then the liability will cease.

That 10 year period ends on 13 October 2013.  Purchasers of land on or after 13 October 2013 will be bound only if the chancel repair liability is registered against the title of their land.

Failure to register does not extinguish any existing liability on 13 October 2013. The liability will continue to bind owners of land who purchased their land before 13 October 2013 until the land is sold.  If land is transferred for no consideration after 13 October 2013 (for example, as a gift) it is taken subject to whatever interests affect the property.  This means that any existing chancel repair liability would be carried forward until the property is sold.

One difficulty in determining the liability is that the land to which the liability attaches will not necessarily be near to the church in question and inadequate records make it difficult to identify whether the liability exists or not.  Most practitioners carry out a simple search which uses historical maps to pinpoint properties within historic parish boundaries.

Currently any potential liability revealed in the chancel search can be protected by an insurance policy under which a claim can be made if you are unlucky enough to receive a demand to repair that expensive chancel.  We anticipate that such policies will be hard to come by and very expensive, however, in the event that a chancel liability is registered against a property before the October deadline.

For further information on chancel repair insurance or the conveyancing process generally, please contact Jack Lambdon on 020 7288 4773.

15 February 2013 by

Crocodile tears

The Court of Protection has recently decided an important case on the duties of an attorney who is managing someone’s finances under a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).

1 March 2013 by

Relief for the excluded

You may think when you make a will that, upon death, your intentions will be carried out by the executors of the estate. You may also think that your intended beneficiaries, whoever they may be, shall benefit in accordance with your wishes.

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