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This report is delivered either as a certificate which attests you are not liable to pay, or as a report which confirms this obligation.

What is a Chancel Search?

(Last Updated: 14/04/2023)
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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. This is applicable if you're purchasing with a mortgage, but it's always recommended you buy one, even if you're a cash buyer.

What is a chancel search when buying a house?

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

Your search company conducts a search of The National Archives of the historical records for the parish your property ( or the one you're looking to buy) is located in, to see if you might face this claim in the future. Research can also include Land Registry chancel repair records, if any and relevant.

The chancel repair search returned is headed up as either:

  • 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
  • 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.
Chancel Search Report

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.

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.

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

    The level of cover required
    The amount of land involved (from less than 1 acre to 10 acres)
    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 5 acres of land, you can expect to pay between £40-£65. As a contrast, if you wished for £500,000 cover in perpetuity for up to 5 acres of land, you can expect to pay £165.

The example report includes a section of Indicative Insurance Policy Premiums, which can help you approximate the costs involved.

We include the initial Chancel Check search as part of our standard searches pack, which costs £295. This includes all the required property searches.

Alternatively, we include Chancel Check fees in all of our conveyancing quotes.

Includes Chancel Check Costs - Fixed Fees – No Sale No Fee – On all Mortgage Lender Panels

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.

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
Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Reviewed by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

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