Thousands of households could face church repair bills under archaic rights
Pressure is on for churches to register historic chancel repair liabilities before the deadline set by the last government passes in 2013 and there are now signs that churches are beginning to take action.
The historic laws relating to chancel repair date back to the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII where land was divided into parishes with legal obligations being placed on the property owners within each parish to contribute towards the repairs of the church.
Following a high profile case, the last government set a deadline of 2013 for these liabilities to be registered. This has led to churches trawling though land documents dating back hundreds of years to check whether these liabilities exist.
The case which prompted the last government to act involved Aston Cantlow church which claimed £100,000 in repairs from Andrew and Gail Wallbannk at Glebe Farm, Warwickshire. Since then many people who have purchased a property have obtained a chancel repair indemnity policy to insure against these potential costs.
In the village of St Eadburgha in Gloucestershire, villagers have received letters from the Land Registry warning them that these liabilities are to be registered against the titles of their properties and giving them two weeks to lodge a legal objection.
Peter Luff, the local Conservative MP for Mid Worcestershire said: “This could be replicated across the country, that’s an awful lot of people whose lives are about to be blighted and their homes unsaleable.” Mr. Luff described this case as merely “the tip of the iceberg.”