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Chancel Repair Liabilities


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What happens when a church is closed and demolished?

Good question if the church is closed is and not replaced the liability is extinguished but if a new church is built in its place even iin a new location the definitive authority on this the Tithe commission considered the liability transferred. If a church is closed and then re-opened the tithe commission also held the liability returns.

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It is often stated that there are 5,200 churches which enjoy this liability which is probably fairly accurate about 1200 of those have lay rectors which are non land based. These Lay Rectors wealth was often acquired by ownership of tithes and as a consequence of that they ended up being permanently lumbered with chancel repair.

Approximately 2,500 have liabilities so apportioned out into tiny fragments by the 1936 tithe act that it is almost impossible to find all the owners and to purse the owners would cost more than the asset is worth.

it is worth noting in the above 3700 tithe districts where the liability can never be practically found or is never going to put on local land owners people have to take insurance out for something that is never going to happen.

At least another 300 tithe Districts have had enclosures where the maps have been lost or the awards do not make it clear where the liability is.

I have created a list of enclosure which are recorded by parliament as having the liability and married them up with existing enclosure maps and these parts of the county are places with a high risk of provable liability that is personal and several. My lists are found on my blog but also here in the top left hand corner on two pdf files.

The balance of parishes are basically unknown unknowns without in depth research of every single place...

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I will endeavour over the next few days to answer all the questions posed on this thread. People forget that the liability has been transferred into land by parliament by acts of parliament over a period of 250 years or so. The asset cannot now be removed by parliament now because the Human rights laws prevent a government from taking something without compensation. Since for about 3000 of the churches who have the liability it has never been possible to claim the money in the first place I would imagine the government would not want to compensate a church for an asset it could never access.

The result has been something slightly bonkers

Firstly Each PCC has to find the balance between protecting the churches assets which it has to do because a church is subject to charity law and doing what is in the best interest of the charity in the wider view. There are some places where a PCC have to register which are normally where the current owners are the people who gained the land with the condition they would repair the chancel (normally applies to ancient landed entities like colleges or noble families). There are are a few cases where the current owners have a form of indemnity granted by a previous land owner possibly over 200 years ago and so the PCC gives the bill to the current land owner who then hands it over to some one else and this has been happening for many years. With the change in law a PCC was obliged to register the liability on the land or possibly loose the asset and I am guessing of the 247 cases possibly over half fit in the above categories if not more so.

The law is very complicated and a number of PCC's have registered the wrong land as a result of misunderstanding the documents and I am aware of least 7 parishes which fit into that category.

I blog about this in my very geeky blog http://chancelrepairliability.blogspot.co.uk

Nice to have an expert on the thread, thanks for taking the time to post and respond. Hopefully other posters wont hold you personally responsible for the actions of the CoE in relation to exercising rights under CRL legislation, unless of course you are personally responsible for them :)

Edited by The B.L.T.
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Thus protecting the greater human rights abuse by the church? Lewis Carrol was actually a neo-realist.

Although I can't dispute that in some circumstances this may seem to be the case and there has been some real hardship caused to some people. There will be very few examples where a previous owner of the land did not know the land took the liability since in virtually all cases previous owners either created it or allowed it but then sold the land on not telling the buyer. Today's problem in my opinion has far more down to poor recording of these ancient conditions more than anything else.

To totally remove chancel repair liability would be huge boon for some very wealthy organisations whose entire wealth originated from the tithes but yet the government could have come up with a neater solution than the one they adopted.

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Nice to have an expert on the thread, thanks for taking the time to post and respond. Hopefully other posters wont hold you personally responsible for the actions of the CoE in relation to exercising rights under CRL legislation, unless of course you are personally responsible for them :)

My PCC wrote to the charity commission to explain why in our circumstance why we should not register our liabilities and after several exchanges the charity commission agreed with us and I am partly responsible for that . I feel though responsible for more than that :( .

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I will endeavour over the next few days to answer all the questions posed on this thread. People forget that the liability has been transferred into land by parliament by acts of parliament over a period of 250 years or so. The asset cannot now be removed by parliament now because the Human rights laws prevent a government from taking something without compensation.

So why doesn't the government cite this reason when lobbied to remove it? I can't now find the text online, but in, I think, 2008, a then Labour cabinet minister answered a question on this in the Commons stating basically that he regarded CRL as being fundamentally fair, as long as a homeowner had a reasonably easy way of finding out if it applied to him or not.

Not all liabilities are equal since the vast majority of liability is not personal and several (or joint and several) most of it is covered by the 1936 Tithe act...

...which was essentially the work of Cosmo Lang, who has the dubious distinction of having been arguably the most controversial and unpopular Archbishop of Canterbury in modern history. This act was a major part of the reason why: the so-called 'tithe wars' of late 1936 and '37, precipitated by Lang's enforcement of up to what was an effective 15% income tax on some of the poorest workers in Britain, included effigies of Lang being burnt in Kent, and the probable assassination of a vicar in Norfolk (the case was never solved). Part of me thinks that Lang suddenly dropping dead from a heart attack en route to take part in a Lords debate was God trying to tell us something.

To be fair, about the one positive thing that can be said for him is that his determination to push Edward VIII out probably had a positive impact on national security and morale (if he'd been on the throne when the war broke out, given his and Simpson's links to senior Nazis, the resulting constitutional crisis would have been nasty). But defending the continued existence and enforcement of the Tithe Act is analogous to arguing for the reintroduction of the poll tax.

I suspect that the real reason why CRL continues to be enforced is threefold. 1 - The Tories have links to the C of E and to the lawyers and insurance industry, which makes a significant amount out of CRL-related business (searches, sale of insurance policies, etc.); 2 - Labour believe that anyone affected by it is likely to be a rich second home owner, and thus that it serves them right ; 3 - the number of people affected is sufficiently small that neither party considers doing anything about it to be a high priority.

Edited by The Ayatollah Buggeri
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One of the questions people often ask me is what do we do if the liability is registered on our land.

The first response for a land owner is to obtain form UN4 from the land registry to cancel the liability and this should force a PCC to provide the evidence of the liability.

Hi Greg

Welcome on board with this debate.

I have to take you to task on this bit of advice.

If you have any intention of trying to get an indemnity insurance against the CRL do not obtain UN4 and neither should you enter into any discussion with the Church. Certainly you should not embark upon trying to negotiate a one off settlement.

Insurance Companies will not like that you have drawn attention to your property or that you may have compromised any negotiations with the Church that they may have in the event of a claim. At worst they will not offer insurance.

Could I ask what your vested interest is in this topic - you seem to be one of the enemy in that you mention you are in a PCC?

Edited by bumpy
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...which was essentially the work of Cosmo Lang, who has the dubious distinction of having been arguably the most controversial and unpopular Archbishop of Canterbury in modern history. This act was a major part of the reason why: the so-called 'tithe wars' of late 1936 and '37, precipitated by Lang's enforcement of up to what was an effective 15% income tax on some of the poorest workers in Britain, included effigies of Lang being burnt in Kent, and the probable assassination of a vicar in Norfolk (the case was never solved).

I believe you will find that Cosmo Lang objected to the 1936 Tithe Act which erased the collection of the tithe rent charges and partially extinguished CRL and apportioned out the rest of CRL which became transferred to the land where the tithe owner and the land owner were one and the same.

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Today's problem in my opinion has far more down to poor recording of these ancient conditions more than anything else.

But why should such a condition apply today? This should have gone the way of droit du seigneur*.

To totally remove chancel repair liability would be huge boon for some very wealthy organisations whose entire wealth originated from the tithes but yet the government could have come up with a neater solution than the one they adopted.[/font][/size]

Sorry, you've lost me. Who would it be a boon for and why? (apart from home-owners whose property was previously subject to it).

* yes, I know this probably never existed

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Hi Greg

Welcome on board with this debate.

I have to take you to task on this bit of advice.

If you have any intention of trying to get an indemnity insurance against the CRL do not obtain UN4 and neither should you enter into any discussion with the Church. Certainly you should not embark upon trying to negotiate a one off settlement.

Insurance Companies will not like that you have drawn attention to your property or that you may have compromised any negotiations with the Church that they may have in the event of a claim.

Could I ask what your vested interest is in this topic - you seem to be one of the enemy in that you mention you are in a PCC?

I am vicar and amateur researcher and assisted in the removal of the liability from many houses either directly or indirectly via my research. Personally I would recommended you had researched the origins of the liability on your property before doing anything but for me I believe you have been poorly advised since issuing a UN4 is an absolute must. I am aware of 100's of homes where the liability never even existed in the first place and the PCC just had to rescind the registrations.

Now if your property is sitting on top of Tithe land in an enclosure award and you are the only owner then the sum you paid was perfectly reasonable and better than anything the church could offer you.

If your liability was defined by the recorded of ascertainments and was a tiny fraction of the entire chancel then the lump sum to pay it off is the best way to go.

I do not consider myself an enemy of anyone I just want PCC's to make reasonable decisions both legally and in fact but sadly that does not always seem to be the case.

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But why should such a condition apply today? This should have gone the way of droit du seigneur*.

Sorry, you've lost me. Who would it be a boon for and why? (apart from home-owners whose property was previously subject to it).

* yes, I know this probably never existed

Many of the of liabilities shall we say about 1500 churches are either directly or indirectly the responsibility of former tithe owners and/or land owners such as the Oxbridge colleges, the Crown, the church Commissioners etc since they own or owned the land or tithes they have been burdened with the liability for hundreds of years as it was tied to their source of money..

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I believe you will find that Cosmo Lang objected to the 1936 Tithe Act which erased the collection of the tithe rent charges...

Precisely. In other words he supported tithe rent charges (sorry - should have worded earlier post better).

Lang may genuinely have believed that enforced theocratic government (including enforced tax collection to pay for it) was the most humane and effective way to do God's work on Earth, but at the very least his inability to recognise the failure of his belief in action is something he should be held accountable for in the history books.

Sadly, his authoritarian and hypocritical approach is one that is alive and well in the C of E today, one recent example that sticks in my mind being a sermon by Sentamu in which he told us all to use less energy in order to prevent global warming and consequent food shortages in Africa. The building in which he delivered that sermon, York Minster, was at the time lit up by around 50KW (enough to power 15-20 family homes) of pretty but utterly unnecessary floodlighting.

The C of E's approach to its financial affairs (and probably the RC church's approach to child abuse, though having not been personally affected by this in the same way, I'm not as qualified to comment on it) is, I suspect, a powerful example of what Ellen White had in mind writing in in The Great Controversy - false prophets being the principal means of deception.

Edited by The Ayatollah Buggeri
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I believe you have been poorly advised since issuing a UN4 is an absolute must.

I had to pay £100 to get the Record of Ascertainment that showed nothing. Every insurance company I approached were adamant that they would not insure me if I had issued an UN4. So where was the poor advice?

If you follow your advice then one may become uninsurable. Is that what you want for innocent people?

Edited by bumpy
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I am vicar and amateur researcher and assisted in the removal of the liability from many houses either directly or indirectly via my research. Personally I would recommended you had researched the origins of the liability on your property before doing anything

This is a typically naive response from someone sitting on the other side of the fence.

Our local church registered the unilateral CRL and I guess like many others we were thrown into turmoil. The only thing we could consider is 'when will the big bill from the Church hit the mat'? I lost sleep for 2 months, was extremely angry and stressed, and my poor wife was in tears daily. How can a Christian group reek such havoc?

Its fine for you to say "research the origins of your liability" when all we wanted was the peace of mind that insurance would bring and the quicker the better.

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There was a debate held on CRL in parliament just over a year ago in which i was quoted and a total of 4 MP's turned up for it. which shows how important it is considered to be.There are ways of squaring a complicated series circle but the reality as stated before it affects very few householders and to change the law would have been very complicated and taken up a lot of parliaments time. The government have stated correctly that compounding the liability is one way out of it and actually it is not that burdensome just mysterious and it has been quite a common practice in the past.

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There was a debate held on CRL in parliament just over a year ago in which i was quoted and a total of 4 MP's turned up for it. which shows how important it is considered to be.There are ways of squaring a complicated series circle but the reality as stated before it affects very few householders and to change the law would have been very complicated and taken up a lot of parliaments time. The government have stated correctly that compounding the liability is one way out of it and actually it is not that burdensome just mysterious and it has been quite a common practice in the past.

Why does everyone consider that it is the Governments fault for not sorting this out. All it would take would be a noble gesture from the Church to say that they waive all claims to CRL.

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This is a typically naive response from someone sitting on the other side of the fence.

Our local church registered the unilateral CRL and I guess like many others we were thrown into turmoil. The only thing we could consider is 'when will the big bill from the Church hit the mat'? I lost sleep for 2 months, was extremely angry and stressed, and my poor wife was in tears daily. How can a Christian group reek such havoc?

Its fine for you to say "research the origins of your liability" when all we wanted was the peace of mind that insurance would bring and the quicker the better.

I am extremely sorry for your heartache and the pain and distress that was caused to you and your wife. I have assisted dozens of home owners mostly indirectly have had the liability removed from everyone so far and yes I can see insurance is a quick and easy solution but it is not necessarily the cheapest. I am expecting another parish to start removing the liability from all the properties in the next few weeks since the liability was incorrectly registered. Part of the problem has been the complete lack of national or even diocesan assistance for PCC's who have thrown into a extremely confusing situation.

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My PCC wrote to the charity commission to explain why in our circumstance why we should not register our liabilities and after several exchanges the charity commission agreed with us and I am partly responsible for that . I feel though responsible for more than that :( .

Ha, it was partly toungue in cheek. I've bookmarked your blog, you make an interesting point about the appropriateness in some circumstances, eg where the the liability has been factored into the cost of acquiring land in the first place.

edit to add, I understand the tension between charitable laws (the obligation to act in the best interests of the charity) and the damage that enforcing the liabilities could incur.

It seems, in what little I've gleaned so far (although I'll be reading more of your posts) that if the admin costs are prohibitive (large number of small bills to chase) then they will be dropped(and plaudits received for doing the decent thing?), but if a juicy one like the Wallbanks turns up with a significant joint &several liability, then the charitable thing to do is to nail 'em good and proper.

I can't help but feel it ought to work the other way around...

A bit of imagination might be employed to get the community involved for a fundraiser. I must say the Wallbanks story has costs the church a few quid in donations from me, although I'm a very infrequent visitor.

Edited by The B.L.T.
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Why does everyone consider that it is the Governments fault for not sorting this out. All it would take would be a noble gesture from the Church to say that they waive all claims to CRL.

Unfortunately that is simply not possible for instance there are Lay Rectors who are colleges or the crown who simply can afford it. It still boils down to each PCC making it's own reasonable decision but I would agree PCC's were often not given good and helpful advice about he alternatives to registration.

The possible alternatives for a PCC are

a) register the liability

B) ignore it and do nothing and the PCC members accept personal liability

c) register the liability but promise never to enforce it

d) make a reasonable decision showing that registration is not in the interests of the charity due to cost or reputational damage

e) do the same as c but write to the charity commission so as to fully protect PCC members and future grants

What seems to be a problem is that the early advice from the church focused on a,b and c not on d and e.

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Unfortunately that is simply not possible for instance there are Lay Rectors who are colleges or the crown who simply can afford it. It still boils down to each PCC making it's own reasonable decision but I would agree PCC's were often not given good and helpful advice about he alternatives to registration.

The possible alternatives for a PCC are

a) register the liability

B) ignore it and do nothing and the PCC members accept personal liability

c) register the liability but promise never to enforce it

d) make a reasonable decision showing that registration is not in the interests of the charity due to cost or reputational damage

e) do the same as c but write to the charity commission so as to fully protect PCC members and future grants

What seems to be a problem is that the early advice from the church focused on a,b and c not on d and e.

There is a further alternative for the PCCs

Determine where there is a liability and then victimise just a few of the property owners.

This is exactly what happened in my circumstances where the PCC applied its own form of Apartheid to a minority of people in the Glebe area.

Here is the local vicar admitting to this

he said the church had decided not to enact the liability for residential properties in the village, including former local authority and social housing properties.

“The council decided unanimously not to register the chancel repair liability against those houses in Braughing.

“We took a deliberate decision because we thought those densely populated part of the parish is a very important part of our outreach.”

So much for the notion of equality from a caring church.

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Many of the of liabilities shall we say about 1500 churches are either directly or indirectly the responsibility of former tithe owners and/or land owners such as the Oxbridge colleges, the Crown, the church Commissioners etc since they own or owned the land or tithes they have been burdened with the liability for hundreds of years as it was tied to their source of money..

Sorry, genuinely interested, but can you give me the stupid version of that? The colleges and similar pay many of the enforced liabilities - is that right? Okay, it's complicated, but tbh it sounds like the church got this very wrong by not declaring that all private households were automatically exempt.

Question - has anyone considered the human rights issue for someone being hit with this who was actively opposed to the CoE?

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There is a further alternative for the PCCs

Here is the local vicar admitting to this

he said the church had decided not to enact the liability for residential properties in the village, including former local authority and social housing properties.

“The council decided unanimously not to register the chancel repair liability against those houses in Braughing.

“We took a deliberate decision because we thought those densely populated part of the parish is a very important part of our outreach.”

So much for the notion of equality from a caring church.

Dear Bumpy I have been helping Tim Acheson of Braughing and if you speak to him you will discover this liability can be removed and it is likely the PCC will rescind it throughout the parish. If you find my e-mail or contact me via this website I can give you further details.

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Sorry, genuinely interested, but can you give me the stupid version of that? The colleges and similar pay many of the enforced liabilities - is that right? Okay, it's complicated, but tbh it sounds like the church got this very wrong by not declaring that all private households were automatically exempt.

Question - has anyone considered the human rights issue for someone being hit with this who was actively opposed to the CoE?

Hi yes it means that ancient organisations pay up a lot of money for various chancel on a regular basis the details and the amounts are partially held by the national archives.

There are though about 4000 ish chancels where the liability is based purely on land ownership although some of that land will be owned by the Crown, duke of Buckingham Duchy of Cornwall, National trust, MOD etc

The humans rights aspect was the key discussion in the Wallbank case and it was not considered relevant, a key point made was they acquired the land knowing of the liability although I suspect even if they hadn't the case would have gone the same way.

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Here's a Vicar who understands the mentality of the Surrey Homeowner :D

http://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/news/10693018.Historic_Reigate_church_gives_up_ancient_right_to_make_local_homeowners_pay_for_its_repairs/

The Reverend Phil Andrew said “As a church we have never enforced CRL, and we have felt for some time that this is an unfair law on homeowners.”

He said: “We applied to the Charity Commission earlier this year, and they confirmed that we would be within our rights not to enforce CRL.”

Not exactly strapped for cash either if they found £2m for a fancy new church community centre :o

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