Most conveyancing professionals are familiar with the now ubiquitous case of Aston Cantlow PCC v Wallbank. In which the Wallbanks having purchased a Warwickshire farm, were held liable as ‘lay rectors’ to the tune of £96,000 for repairs to the roof of the parish church. Despite a protracted legal battle and ensuing supreme court case, the law lords found in favour of the ecclesiastical parish and the Wallbanks were left with a bill of some £350,000 including legal fees.
Chancel Liability and subsequent recovery from lay rectors are governed by the Chancel Repairs Act 1932 and run with the transfer of title. Despite attempts to reform the law, most notably the provisions of the Land Registration Act 2002 that Chancel Liability would no longer be regarded as an overriding interest and that all interests must be registered by October 2013, the risk to purchasers persists today.
The risk has not been completely mitigated by the LRA 2002, it is still entirely possible that due to defective records liability may still be incurred despite the buyer purchasing in good faith and with no prior knowledge of the potential liability. This in mind it has been considered an article of best practice by the law society for conveyancers to advise purchasers to make enquiries as to any potential liability arising from Chancel repairs. Many of the ‘chancel search’ products currently on the market created for this purpose are hamstrung by the lack of any centralised or authoritative library of parish records relating to chancel repair liability. The law society expressed doubts to this end in its 2006 report on the subject (attach report here).
First Title’s Chancel Indemnity Insurance products mitigate much of the risk associated with the search based products. At a fraction of the price of the typical chancel search product, the policy indemnifies both the purchaser and successor in title for claims of up to £1m. Available for both residential and commercial transactions, this policy really is a no brainer in protecting your clients against the threat of chancel repair liability.
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