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What is a Chancel Search?

This search is commissioned to reveal whether or not the property you are proposing to purchase may be affected by a potential “Chancel Repair” obligation to the local Parish Church. Such obligations stem from mediaeval times where land, previously owned by the Church to fund the local rector, had been sold and the new owner took on the repairing obligation attached to that land. Basically, any property located within the boundaries of a Parish where such a liability exists could be “caught”. The penalty is financial in that it involves having to pay for the upkeep and repair of the chancel of the local mediaeval parish church.

There was a famous case, quite recently, (Aston Cantlow v Wallbank) where the Church sought payment from the owners of the rectorial land (it was part of a property called Glebe Farm) to repair the chancel of the local mediaeval Church. The owners of the rectorial land (known as lay rectors) refused to pay and what was originally a ?6000 bill increased to ?96,000 as the structure slowly disintegrated. The Church won the case.

Types of Chancel Search

Two types of searches are available;-

  1. Chancel Check Search
  2. Full Chancel Search

The basic Chancel Check Search reveals whether property is located within a parish that could charge for repairs to the chancel. It does not show whether or not the actual subject property is located on land that has this responsibility but does indicate a certain level of risk.

The full Chancel Search is much more expensive; however it would reveal whether the actual subject property was liable. If it was, then we would need to register this liability with HM Land Registry.

Dealing with positive results

If positive results are revealed in either case, then it is possible to obtain indemnity insurance to insure against future claims being made against you. We would provide you with full details and a quotation as to cost if this were the case.

It has to be said that we are not aware of any claims being made in the Teesside area against any person in respect of chancel repairs. That being said, we cannot confirm that no such claims will be made in the future, which is why we ask you to make a decision regarding whether or not to undertake the search. The Law Society has been calling for the Government to abolish chancel repair liability for some time.

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