Could you have to pay for repairs to your local church?

Posted: 01/08/2012

In Waterden, North Norfolk there is a Grade I listed, Anglo Saxon village church which is in desperate need of repair. All Saints church needs £50,000 of repairs to its roof and an extra £10,000 to restore the ancient box pews. How would you feel if you found out it was your responsibility to pay for these repairs? You would question why and be faced with a medieval law as your answer. This Law is called Chancel Repair Liabilities which dates back to when the country was under the reign of Henry VIII and requires those who live on land that was lived on by monks to pay for the repair work to their local churches. This means that home owners inherit the responsibility when purchasing a property that was built on Chancel land.

Since then, most of the estates have been broken down and developed into new properties. This Law benefits around 5,200 pre-Reformation churches in England and Wales under the Land Registration Act 1925. Property owners could be liable to pay for repairs to the local church, with bills potentially running into thousands of pounds. Some vicars call it a godsend due to funding short falls but the All Saints church is only used 12 times a year when the villagers use it once every four weeks for Evensong.

The villagers have already raised £100,000 to repair the roof of their regular church, Saint Mary’s and are struggling to raise more funding for All Saints. This is when the Chancel Repair Liabilities law may have to come into effect. In 1994, a repair of £100,000 for a share in repair work bill was handed to a couple just before Christmas. The couple was not aware of the law and appealed against it all the way to the House of Lords where they lost their case in December 2008. This caused them to have to sell their farm to pay for the bill.

This law is very controversial but it’s set to continue with the Land Registry allowing parochial church councils to investigate whether a liability exists and registering it before October 2013.

If you are worried that the house you live in could be part of the Chancel Repair Liabilities law or a house you are looking to purchase may be on Chancel land then you can order a ChancelCheck Report from Pali. Pali’s ChencelCheck Report will tell you if a property is liable for Chancel repair. There are two reports that can come back, the first is a certificate which puts the purchaser/vendor in the clear, and the second is a report which confirms that there is the real potential to be held liable. If this is the case, insurance can then be purchased from Pali to cover in the event of a claim.

If you would be interested in ordering a ChancelCheck Report or have any extra questions, please do not hesitate to contact Pali on 0151 691 1170 or you can email:

Amanda McGovern, Pali Ltd

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