This search confirms whether the property 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 liability exists could be caught. The penalty involves having to pay for the upkeep of the Chancel of the local mediaeval parish church.
TThere was a famous case in 2003 (Aston Cantlow v Wallbank) where the church sought payment from the owners of the rectorial land, 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 £6,000 bill increased to £96,000 as the structure slowly disintegrated. The church won, leaving the Wallbanks with an estimated bill of £500,000.
On 13 October 2013, the law changed and the right to demand repair costs is now only enforceable against a landowner if that land has been protected by registration of a notice against the registered title. Whilst it was expected that buyers would not be subject to chancel repair liability from 13 October onwards if the land they were purchasing had not been protected by registration, in reality the system does not appear to be working as expected, and the potential for liability does not appear to have changed.
So it would seem that a search would still be necessary. However, as it will not show for certain whether the property is caught or not, we recommend taking out a specially designed indemnity insurance policy instead. The insurance costs the same as the search and provides you with the peace of mind you need, whatever the circumstances.