CHANCEL REPAIR LIABILITY: what is it and how could it affect my property?
One of the most common questions that clients ask us is about chancel repair liability. This article looks at these understandable concerns, and tries to clear away some of the uncertainty surrounding the subject.
Chancel liability is an ancient liability which means that the owners of affected land have to make a financial contribution toward the upkeep of certain churches (strictly speaking the chancels, or area around the altar, of those churches). The fact that a property is near to a church does not necessarily mean that it is more likely to be affected by chancel repair liability. To add to the uncertainty, a property could be affected by chancel repair liability without the fact ever being recorded in the deeds. Though the liability is rare, it does crop up, and both sellers and buyers need to be aware of its potential existence.
The law changed on 12 October 2013 and it was hoped that this change would bring an end to the uncertainty as to whether a particular property was affected. It was hoped that a property would be ‘cleansed’ of any risk of chancel repair liability if the property was sold after that date. Sadly, confusion still exists and it may well be that both property sellers and buyers still face risk of liability even if they sold or bought property after October 2013.
What should property purchasers do? Because of the uncertainty that still surrounds this issue we advise all our clients to carry out a very affordable chancel repair liability search. If this search reveals that the property is in an area which is potentially affected by chancel repair liability, then it is open to the purchaser (or indeed the seller) to put in place an indemnity policy to cover future loss associated with chancel repair liability. We discuss the various policy options with clients to ensure that the right level of cover is chosen. The cost of such policies starts at approximately £50.00 and rises depending on the terms of cover required. Policies are available which can be handed on to a future purchaser of the property. In this way, you won’t have to worry about receiving a notice of chancel repair liability.
What is Property fraud and how can we prevent it?
Fraudsters try many different ways to profit from property or mortgage fraud, and may try to pose as owners of a property in order to sell that property to an unsuspecting buyer. They will then disappear with the sale proceeds leaving behind a very difficult situation for the property owner and the buyer. There are other similarly horrifying scenarios.
Solicitors, the Land Registry and mortgage lenders have in place extremely tight procedures to guard against property fraud, but there will always be a small number of cases where fraudsters are successful. Certain properties are more vulnerable to fraud, for example where the owners live away for long periods, or properties without a mortgage.
There are ways in which you can increase your protection against this sort of fraud and the government has produced a useful guide setting out the steps you should take at https://www.gov.uk/protect-land-property-from-fraud
A particularly useful service is the Land Registry’s Property Alerts’ scheme. You can sign up for up to ten properties, and you will then receive notifications if anyone tries to deal with the property at Land Registry. Further information is available here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/property-alert-service-proves-popular-in-the-fight-against-property-fraud
The Land Registry’s website sets out detailed accounts of property fraud, and will encourage most people to take some sort of action to protect themselves.
Land Registry also publishes a useful series of Public Guides, and Public Guide 2 available from the Land Registry’s website explains how to keep your address for service up to date.
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