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The chancel repair liability,

Has anyone been asked to pay towards the repair costs of a church, because the churches boundary line covers your property?

Asked on Aug 27 2011, General in Dagenham | Report content

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  • Yes, it is possible for this to happen, indeed most solicitors will carry out a chancel search as part of their conveyance, to see if the property was built on church land. If, the property is, then they will normally set up an indemnity policy to cover the risk of having to pay towards church repairs. One point of note that i am aware of, is that if previous owners of the property were never asked for their contribution, then your costs could be back dated to when the property was first built.

    Answered on Sep 3 2011, Report content
  • Chancel repair liability is a permanent liability on some properties to fund repairs to churches. Since the Middle Ages churches in England and Wales have been ministered by either a salaried vicar, or a rector, who received parish tithes. The rectors were responsible for the repairs of the chancel of the church. Many rectorships were acquired by monasteries which then became liable for chancel repairs. When the monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII and the land was sold the chancel repair liability passed to the new landowners. This liability can persist to this day. The land in question may not necessarily be adjacent to the church, and the liability may not be visible from an inspection of the deeds. It can therefore be difficult to determine whether or not such liability applies to a property. There are over 5,200 pre-Reformation churches in the United Kingdom. This liability was highlighted in 2003 when a Warwickshire couple received a demand for nearly £100,000 to fund local church repairs. After a protracted legal battle, the court found in favor of the parish council, leaving the couple with a bill for more than £350,000. The law changed in 2002 and from 13 October 2013 new owners of land will only be bound by chancel repair liability if it is entered as an obligation on the deeds of their property. This puts the onus on the church to identify all affected land and register their interest before that date. A request for the Government to remove this liability was declined in 2008. They argued that the change in 2002 would assist home owners and in most cases any affect that the liability had on house prices could be reduced by relatively inexpensive insurance. Many areas continue to have a potential chancel repair liability. In the absence of express evidence on the property deeds this means the property could be faced with an obligation to contribute towards maintenance and repair of church property. Note that this is only ‘potential’. Also, because this obligation could be spread over many properties it is likely that any contribution required would be small - maybe less than the price of an insurance policy. These policies are relatively cheap and easy to obtain. Historically the most useful part of such a policy was that it could be passed on to future property owners to protect them. However, in view of the change in law from 2013, unless there is an express obligation in the property deeds such an insurance policy may prove unnecessary. After this date the need for your solicitor to carry out a chancel liability search when clients are buying a property should diminish considerably.

    Answered on Feb 8 2012, Report content

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