Chancel Repair Liability: A useful guide

With the impending deadline looming for registration of Chancel Repair Liability in October 2013 homeowners and Parochial Church Councils alike should be alive to the impact of registration or failure to register the liability.

A failure to register the liability will not be fatal to the right to claim the liability. However a failure to register before the date and also before an onward sale by the owner of the property will mean that the liability cannot be claimed against the subsequent owner. As a result in order to guarantee the right to claim PCCs should register the liability against properties before October 2013.

What does this mean for PCCs?

PCC members and in particular the officers are trustees of a charity and as a result have a duty to protect the property of the charity and promote its objects. PCCs members may have personal responsibility if they fail to do so without proper cause. Failing to register the liability and liability arising that is irrecoverable could create that personal responsibility.

How did Chancel Repair Liability arise?

A church building in broken into a number of parts, the relevant part being where the Altar is normally situated. This is known as the Chancel. In medieval times, with the coming of Christianity major landowners were the first to be converted to Christianity. This meant that Christianity could spread more quickly. Landowners were also able to provide the money necessary to build church buildings. A common effect of this was that the body of the church was repaired and maintained by the people but the Chancel was repaired by Rector at his expense, this being his part of the building. To allow income for this the Rector was usually given land from which to draw and income and to provide money for repairs as and when they fell due.

Over time this land was sold to other purchasers for value and the repair liability passed with the land to the owners now known as ‘Lay Rectors’. So this is where we are today.

Why has Chancel Repair Liability become and issue?

In 2003 the House of Lords held that despite the arcane nature of the liability and the law under which it was granted Aston Cantlow PCC was able to recover the liability from Mr and Mrs Wallbank, who owned a property that it was proved was liable for the charge. They could not rely on the Human Rights Act as the PCC was not a governmental or quasi-governmental body.

At the time of the judgment the then government decided that it could not cancel the liability in its entirety without paying significant compensation to the church. Therefore they create a register it or lose it provision to ensure that the issue would go away. As a result we have our October 2013 deadline.

What should PCCs do next?

It is essential that you make

1. Investigations of your old minute to ensure that you know the name of your parish in 1840

2. Obtain a copy of your Record of Ascertainment, Tithe Maps and any other relevant documents from the National Archive or County Records Office

3. Investigate whether the liability has been extinguished and if not what land has the liability and at what percentage.

4. Ensure that this Land is now identifiable

5. Obtain the appropriate forms for registration with the Land Registry

6. Seek detailed legal advice on the nature of the liability in relation to the land within the parish

You should also consider what impact this will have on the other roles that you have as a PCC.

If you have any issues in this regard please contact us on 01992 558411


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