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Chancel repair liability is an ancient interest which potentially benefits pre-Reformation churches in England and Wales. It enables parochial church councils to require owners of former rectorial land to fund repairs to the chancel (the space around the altar at the east end of the building) of their local church.
Historically the rector of a church was responsible for repairs to the chancel and was able to pay for these repairs with the income from rectorial land. In many instances the liability to pay for repairs continues notwithstanding that the rectorial land has been subsequently sub-divided into various parcels and sold to individuals or organisations who are not connected with the church. The owners of such land are called lay rectors.
liability is attached to land not buildings and the burdened land may not be immediately adjacent to the church; liability may even attach to a new property in an urban area
the liability may not have been recorded in the title deeds to the land or entered on the registers of title
there is no single central register that identifies all chancel repair liabilities so in many cases it is impossible to tell whether a liability exists; even a detailed search of old records in the National Archive is not always
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