Ancient church property ties may soon be a thing of the past for home owners explains Abdul Zaheed - PropertyBlawg

Ancient church property ties may soon be a thing of the past for home owners explains Abdul Zaheed

by PropertyBlawg on September 11, 2012

After the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, land was split up in different ways which meant that owners of many houses up and down the country that have a historic church nearby may have a legal duty to make a contribution towards the cost of repairing the churches.  This cost can potentially run into thousands of pounds.

It is estimated that more than 5,000 parishes across England are subject to the historic legal duty to pay towards the cost of repairing historic churches.  This obligation is otherwise known as “chancel repair liability”.

Most property solicitors are aware of this liability and as part of the conveyancing process would conduct a chancel search to determine if the property being purchased has a potential chancel repair liability.  If the search results show the property as having a potential chancel repair liability then most buyers would be encouraged by their solicitors to take out an indemnity insurance against this potential liability.  This is usually a one off premium which would cover the risk of any such potential liability.  Having said this chancel liability is rarely enforced and some commentators may argue that for this reason it is not worth putting indemnity insurance in place.

As a result of the last Labour Government’s attempt to simplify the law, parishes have been ordered to go through thousands of land records dating back centuries to find out precisely who is liable for repairs.  A 10-year legal deadline imposed by the last Labour Government (due to end next year) could see local parish bodies legally responsible if they fail to comply.

The Charity Commission has warned that if local parish bodies fail to comply with this obligation (if imposed), individual members of the Parochial Church Council could be liable for the repairs and perhaps even found to be in breach of their legal duties as trustees.

Either way, for the lay person this change may be perceived as being good news especially when buying property.  This grey area has been starved of clarification and certainty for far too long and the proposed changes will not only clarify the position but also make this whole area easier to understand and follow.

Abdul Zaheed is Head of Commercial Property at DBS law


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