What should I know about chancel repair liability?

‘Chancel repair liability’ is an archaic law requiring some property owners to contribute to the cost of repairing a medieval church.

The ‘chancel’ is the area around the altar in a parish church. The obligation to pay is attached to land ownership – if the land was historically owned by the church, its owner may be obliged to pay for any necessary repairs to the chancel.

The latest change in the law governing chancel repair liability was in 2013. The legal obligation was not abolished – instead, parish churches were required to register notices at the Land Registry to protect their right to claim for chancel repairs. If a church has not registered such a notice before the land is sold, it will not be able to claim a contribution from the buyer.

Homeowners may be responsible for church repairs in the following scenarios:

  • If the right to claim has already been protected on the register
  • If the freehold has not been sold since 13 October 2013
  • If the property has changed hands since 13 October 2013 but the new owner did not give valuable consideration for it (eg it was inherited)

So whilst the risk has reduced, if your conveyancer identifies that there is still a risk that the property you are purchasing could be affected by chancel repair liability, they will usually recommend you take out insurance. Most one-off policies are under £20 and the cost is preferable to being caught by a large bill for specialist repairs to an ancient church.

For more information and advice on chancel repair liability or buying and selling a property, please speak to a member of our Conveyancing team by calling 0113 264 4414 or emailing conveyancing@emsleys.co.uk.

Karen Lawson

Written by

Karen Lawson


Karen is a Fellow of the Chartered Legal Executives with over 30 years’ experience in Conveyancing. She specialises in all aspects of new build conveyancing and also deals with freehold, leasehold and shared ownership properties. Karen joined Emsleys in 1979, specialising in Family Law for the first 25 years. She...

Back to Blog