PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.
A recent case in which the owners of a farm faced ruin because their property was saddled with an ancient responsibility to maintain the local church received a great deal of publicity, and has prompted a change in the applicable law.
So-called ‘chancel repair liabilities’ (CRLs) can attach to properties and have no impact on successive owners of those properties for centuries, only coming to light when a major refurbishment of the church (in the recent case, a new roof) becomes necessary. The consequences can then be disastrous for the owner of the affected property. It is normally possible to insure against the risk of a property carrying a CRL, but not against the cost of a CRL claim where a property is known to be at risk.
A change has now been made to the law and this will come into force on 13 October 2013. From that date, a CRL will have to be registered by way of a notice against the property title in order to be effective against a buyer of a property which is registered land. This will mean that the prospective buyer of a property that is subject to a CRL will be warned of its existence when the usual property searches are done. Existing CRLs are unaffected.