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Frank Hovis

Chancel Repair Liabilities

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I've thought this is surprisingly little-known problem and advised somebody at work on it when it came on his property search.

It means that your house, and you as owner of it, may suddenly get a big repair bill for the local church.

This story though contains one thing that I didn't know:

It won't always come up in conveyancing:

Website designer Tim Acheson, a Catholic, said the liability towards repairs to grade I listed St Mary the Virgin in his home village of Braughing, Hertfordshire, hadn't come up during conveyancing when he bought the property in 2009.

And can be massive:

The rule - which dates back to the dissolution of the monasteries almost 500 years ago - was highlighted by the case of Andrew and Gail Wallbank who inherited a farm in Warwickshire.

They were ordered to pay over £100,000 towards repairs to Aston Cantlow church, and following a lengthy legal battle which ended in 2008 were left with no choice but to sell the property.

Churches are now registering loads of previously unaware people as lay rectors and so responsible:

In some cases, the paper reported, large numbers of properties have been registered - St Cuthbert's Church in Lytham, Lancashire, has registered 5,725 addresses, while St Andrew's Church in Gorleston-on-Sea, near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, has registered 854.

While the right could only be exercised if the chancel was in urgent need of repairs, recipients of the letters have suffered shock and upheaval.

Now whilst being one of 5,725 is less of a problem than being one of one it's still a shock.

I had thought that buying a property with this on could be avoided by a simple search, but it seems that that hasn't been the case but will be in future.

It forms part of my "wouldn't look at a house if it" list:

  • Was listed
  • Has Chancel Repair Liability
  • Has "rent a roof" (as opposed to owned) solar panels

I'm glad it's being reformed so you can now know about it and avoid it but some more people will be getting a shock. And it's not just old houses, it's the land. The colleague I advised was buying a new build.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2530943/Church-repair-hit-thousands-Homeowners-face-huge-bills-ancient-laws-regardless-religion.html

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http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/advice/articles/chancel-repair-liability-still-an-issue-for-conveyancers/

Certain overriding interests, including chancel repair liability, ceased to be overriding at midnight on 13 October 2013. These overriding interests are:

a franchise

a manorial right

a right to rent that was reserved to the Crown on the granting of any freehold estate (whether or not the right is still vested in the Crown)

a non-statutory right in respect of an embankment or sea or river wall

a right to payment in lieu of tithe

a right in respect of the repair of a church chancel (chancel repair liability)

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http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/advice/articles/chancel-repair-liability-still-an-issue-for-conveyancers/

Certain overriding interests, including chancel repair liability, ceased to be overriding at midnight on 13 October 2013. These overriding interests are:

a franchise

a manorial right

a right to rent that was reserved to the Crown on the granting of any freehold estate (whether or not the right is still vested in the Crown)

a non-statutory right in respect of an embankment or sea or river wall

a right to payment in lieu of tithe

a right in respect of the repair of a church chancel (chancel repair liability)

The first flat I bought had a chancel liability and I recall reading a flood of claims were expected before 2013 as the law was due to be reformed.

I don't think the flood of claims ever materialised, and you could also take insurance (ours was £80), so it wasn't even a big deal then. It's even less of a deal now.

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It forms part of my "wouldn't look at a house if it" list:

  • Was listed

  • Has Chancel Repair Liability

  • Has "rent a roof" (as opposed to owned) solar panels

Where's: near a river, near the sea, near a cliff, near a powerline?

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Where's: near a river, near the sea, near a cliff, near a powerline?

Near a river and near the sea are pluses for me! I don't want to live in the East Anglian flatlands.

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Daily Hate? Ah so it is.......

Which means they've taken 1 occurence out of 20 million and extrapolated it into a nationwide problem for their entire Nimby readership.

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The first flat I bought had a chancel liability and I recall reading a flood of claims were expected before 2013 as the law was due to be reformed.

I don't think the flood of claims ever materialised, and you could also take insurance (ours was £80), so it wasn't even a big deal then. It's even less of a deal now.

Which is fine if you knew about it and therefore took out the insurance before 13 Oct 2013.I presume all claims that are pending before that date still stand?

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Daily Hate? Ah so it is.......

Which means they've taken 1 occurence out of 20 million and extrapolated it into a nationwide problem for their entire Nimby readership.

:lol:

Although you wouldn't want to be the one in 20 million.Better than one in ten.

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Which is fine if you knew about it and therefore took out the insurance before 13 Oct 2013.I presume all claims that are pending before that date still stand?

You might have a case against a solicitor for not advising on the insurance (Which I think is not much more than the check) - unless of course you thought saving £80 was a good deal at the time.

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Which is fine if you knew about it and therefore took out the insurance before 13 Oct 2013.I presume all claims that are pending before that date still stand?

Pending claims would still be valid. The law is to prevent new claims from appearing where there was no (reasonable) knowledge that such a claim might exist.

However, if the right was registered with the land registry before 13 October 2013,then any future claim will be valid (but as it is now registered, any such right would be trivially discoverable). The insurers got in a real flap about this, and gave purchasers of property strict instructions not to contact local churches, in case the query prompted the church has to register the right.

Effectively, the law reform blocks rarely used and very difficult to trace historical rights from being claimed.

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and you could also take insurance (ours was £80), so it wasn't even a big deal then. It's even less of a deal now.

Not true. Once the church has put a formal notice on your deeds then insurance costs rocket, if indeed you can get it.

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You might have a case against a solicitor for not advising on the insurance (Which I think is not much more than the check) - unless of course you thought saving £80 was a good deal at the time.

Most of the 'failure to inform' will have been by solicitors more than 10 years ago. There is a 'statute of limitations' which will stop people making a claim against them now.

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It forms part of my "wouldn't look at a house if it" list:

  • Was listed

  • Has Chancel Repair Liability

  • Has "rent a roof" (as opposed to owned) solar panels

I'm glad it's being reformed so you can now know about it and avoid it but some more people will be getting a shock. And it's not just old houses, it's the land. The colleague I advised was buying a new build.

Then you may want to include any property or area that has the name Glebe (Glebe Cottage, Glebe Farm etc.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glebe

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Doesn't look great on the Church if they insist on the serfs paying up. Let's face it land that was raped and pillaged for in the Dark Ages, churches that may have been built via slave labour etc. etc. And still they think they can shaft the populace.

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That is probably correct, I think the £80 is for the search and future protection and if the search says there is no claim then the insurance is there just in case there is a claim made after you have bought. Hope that makes sense.

If a claim is in place then you need to either walk away or be aware of the total possible liability (which is next to impossible as it could mean rebuilding the entire church/manse etc).

I have a property which, had I known, would have cost about £80 to cover for CRL. Unfortunately the first I heard of this liability was when the church put an entry on my Land Registry deeds.

This formalised the churches right to rob me of anything they wanted for as long into history as they wished. Obviously this then created a completely different risk to Insurance Companies and the best policy I could get was for nearly £600, added to which was solicitors fees and a £100 search for a Record of Ascertainment which the Insurance Company insisted on. Some Insurance companies would not cover the risk.

So total bill was about £1000.

Hell will have to freeze over before I ever put money in a church collection again?

Edited by bumpy

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I have a property which, had I known, would have cost about £80 to cover for CRL. Unfortunately the first I heard of this liability was when the church put an entry on my Land Registry deeds.

This formalised the churches right to rob me of anything they wanted for as long into history as they wished. Obviously this then created a completely different risk to Insurance Companies and the best policy I could get was for nearly £600, added to which was solicitors fees and a £100 search for a Record of Ascertainment which the Insurance Company insisted on. Some Insurance companies would not cover the risk.

So total bill was about £1000.

Hell will have to freeze over before I ever put money in a church collection again?

At least you have got cover, I gather one homeowner was robbed and beaten up by the Church and left for dead (financially speaking)........presumably they take their queue from the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Totally wicked and immoral use of medieval powers imo.

Edited by crashmonitor

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The evil unleashed, while they are about it maybe they could rekindle witch trials...........

http://www.chancelrepair.org/

The real evil is that the liability is Joint and Several. This means that the church can pick on a single individual and demand the entire bill.

Their excuse would be that that individual can then go around everyone else and ask for a share. This may have been OK in medieval times when the Lord of the Manor could beat up the serfs, but it doesn't quite work today.

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Doesn't look great on the Church if they insist on the serfs paying up. Let's face it land that was raped and pillaged for in the Dark Ages, churches that may have been built via slave labour etc. etc. And still they think they can shaft the populace.

Couldn't agree more. As a committed Christian, I regard the Church of England as a fundamentally unchristian organisation - at least, in so far as its business and financial affairs are led and conducted. When I was growing up, our local vicar was continually harassing my mother for money, even in the years after my father was killed in the Falklands and we were very poor. He also did absolutely nothing to prevent a neighbour (local bigwig, always in the front pew, etc.) from spreading malicious rumours to the effect that Mother was having affairs, and, we are convinced, bribed local politicians to grease the wheels of a planning application to build houses over a green at the back of the church, which was the only open space within a 1.5 mile radius in which kids could play, dogs could be exercised, etc. It is partly (in fact, if I'm honest with myself, primarily) why I left the C of E and am now a Seventh-day Adventist. The separation of church and state is a fundamental and defining belief of the SDA church ("Give unto Caesar...", though a cliche nowadays, was said for sound reasons then and the essential ones still apply today), which believes that religious activity should receive no material support, or obstruction, from government. The fact that the C of E is willing to use arcane and obsolete laws (the money-raising powers it's trying to exercise now date from the time when it effectively was local government, and thus needed operating revenue) to extract money from people, most of whom do not even attend their churches at all, says everything you need to know about them.

As for the repair liabilities themselves, aren't these things you can sue the surveyor and/or conveyancing lawyer for if they fail to identify them? My mother had an ongoing problem whereby the master stopcock for her water supply in the terraced house she bought in 2000 was located in the property next door. A few years later, the neighbouring house was bought by BTLers, who would turn the stopcock off when the place was between tenants, and her water would be cut off without warning. After a long saga, we established that this problem wasn't mentioned on the survey report or by the solicitors. As the solicitors hired the surveyor, we eventually got a second firm of solicitors to invite the original one to stump up the £4k to have the two supplies separated and a stopcock installed in her house, with coded but emphatic suggestions of the small claims court if they weren't amenable to the idea. Not only did they pay up, but they apologised profusely and had the original surveyor organise the work.

Surely if a conveyancing solicitor fails to identify a chancel repair liability and a claim is then made against the homeowner, that homeowner has a claim for negligence against the solicitor?

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At least this thread is less abusive than the last time this came up....! What a different tone .

http://www.housepricecrash.co.uk/forum/index.php?showtopic=131360&hl=%20chancel%20%20repairs&st=0

I paid £15 for insurance to cover me for chancel liability without a search as it wasn't on my deeds about 1.5 years before the Oct 2013 deadline . No point in alerting the grabbing bastards , £15 is nothing when buying your gaff.

edit , just too,clarify... There was a search to see if there had been any historical claims in my area , but no contact with the church to see if they could .

Edited by Tankus

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Surely if a conveyancing solicitor fails to identify a chancel repair liability and a claim is then made against the homeowner, that homeowner has a claim for negligence against the solicitor?

Sounds like you were lucky in that both firms were still around, in many cases they won't be.

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As for the repair liabilities themselves, aren't these things you can sue the surveyor and/or conveyancing lawyer for if they fail to identify them?

Surely if a conveyancing solicitor fails to identify a chancel repair liability and a claim is then made against the homeowner, that homeowner has a claim for negligence against the solicitor?

The irony is that most solicitors weren't offering the CRL search until about 10 years ago when it became high profile.

BUT there is a 'statute of limitations' that says they cant be pursued for compensation after a period of time which I think is 12 years. So most will get away with it despite legal negligence.

BTW The Law Society do not now use the term 'Negligence' - it has been re-classified as 'Failure to Inform'

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Thanks. What I wasn't taking on board is that no statute of limitations applies to the repair liability (for reserving the right to claims filed pre-October 2013), but it does for holding solicitors or surveyors responsible who fail to find out about it in the conveyancing process.

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Thanks. What I wasn't taking on board is that no statute of limitations applies to the repair liability (for reserving the right to claims filed pre-October 2013), but it does for holding solicitors or surveyors responsible who fail to find out about it in the conveyancing process.

I have a case lodged with the Legal Ombudsman for Failure to Inform in a property purchase in late 2002, early 2003.

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