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What is a Chancel Search?

5 min read
Chancel Search, also known as Chancel Check or Chancel Liability Search, is one of the four main conveyancing property searches your lender requires you to pay for if you're buying a house with a mortgage and it's always advised you should buy one even if you're a cash buyer.

What is a Chancel Search When Buying a House?

Chancel Search is a check to see if you're liable to pay possibly tens of £1,000s towards the repair and upkeep of your local church in England and Wales.

Your search company conducts a search of The National Archives of the historical records for the parish your property (the one you're looking to buy) is located in to see if you might face this claim in the future. 

Research can also take in Land Registry chancel repair records, if any and relevant.

The chancel repair search returned is headed up as either:

  1. a certificate: this is a warranty that the area of land selected falls within a parish which does not have the ability to claim for chancel repair liability; or
  2. a report: this chancel check search result is returned when the area of land selected falls within a parish which has the ability to claim for chancel repair liability.

When the chancel repair liability search is returned as a report, normally you can then get chancel liability insurance - also known as chancel search indemnity insurance - to cover you against any future claims.

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Do I have to pay Chancel Repairs?

You'll have no liability to pay for chancel repairs if your parish isn't one where such a liability exists. 

If there is a potential liability then as stated, you won't have to pay for any chancel repairs as long as you take out chancel liability insurance and you fulfil the conditions required by the chancel liability indemnity policy.

What is the Chancel Insurance Price?

Different providers naturally offer different prices, however CLS Chancel Check's ChancelSure insurance policies, which are priced according to:

  1. the level of cover required;
  2. the amount of land involved (from less than 1 acre to 10 acres); and
  3. whether the policy is for 25 years, 35 years or in perpetuity.

Additionally premiums for commercial properties cost slightly more.

For a 25-year policy for £100,000 cover for less than 3 acres of land, you can expect to pay around £40 or more. As a contrast, if you wished for £500,000 cover in perpetuity for up to 5 acres of land, you can expect to pay £170 or more.

We include the initial Chancel Check search as part of our standard searches pack, cost £265, of which you pay between £15 and £30 for the Chancel Check element.

Should you receive a report, then you will have to pay extra to cover yourself as described above (ChancelSure).

You can get a bespoke policy should you require it for larger areas of land, higher levels of indemnity, where there is prior knowledge of a risk, a Unilateral Notice registered or a caution lodged against the title.

Is Chancel Repair Insurance a One Off Payment?

Yes. Should your particular planned purchase require you to take out chancel liability insurance, you only need to make a one-off payment to be covered for at least 25 years.

If you do decide to take out cover for a 25-year or 35-year period and continue to live in the same property for more than this time period, you would have to renew your cover.

However in the case of perpetual cover, you would never have to make any further payment.

Chancel Repair Liability - a Medieval Anomaly
Chancel repair liability is a medieval anomaly whereby the Church of England and Wales was granted powers to charge those owning "rectorial land" for the upkeep of the chancel of some parish churches.

Albeit that the origins of this liability are centuries old and arcane, you should be concerned that the Church continues very actively to protect its rights coming from the these ancient laws. 

They affect millions of acres in England and Wales and your local church could potentially call on you for required donations at some future point, even if there's no liability of this nature noted against your title deeds/Land Registry official copy of the register of title.

Which case brought chancel repair liability to the public eye?

The Wallbank case in 2003 brought the chancel repair liability issue to prominence. Andrew and Gail Wallbank received a demand for almost £100,000 to fund repairs of their ecclesiastical parish's medieval church at Aston Cantlow.

After a protracted legal battle, as they sought to challenge this ruling, the Law Lords found in favour of the Parochial Church Council, leaving the Wallbanks with a £350,000 bill including legal costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can complete your purchase without a chancel check. 

However, if it later turns out that you do have chancel repair liability, then you may be forced to pay huge sums of money in the event of expensive repairs to the church.
Is it a simple search to check whether the property you are buying comes with a liability for you to fund repairs to your local church, or not.
Call us on 0333 344 3234 or click below to request a call back and our team will arrange your chancel check.

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