Relief for villagers faced with paying for Church repairs

5 September 2013

A significant decision by the Charity Commission has relieved the pressure on the villagers of Broadway in Worcestershire, who had been readying themselves for significant financial outlays having been served notices by the Land Registry informing them of impending charges for Chancel Repair Liability.

Up to thirty households faced the daunting proposition of paying towards the upkeep of the Chancel of St Eadburgha's Church because of an archaic law that creates a Chancel Repair Liability on those households that fall within the parish boundaries.

The financial expense that can be required of ordinary people to fund Chancel repair can be considerable. A couple in the nearby village of Aston Cantlow were ordered to pay £200,000, following an unsuccessful legal battle and as a result had to sell their land to meet the cost of the liability.

The Parochial Church Council (PCC) whose responsibility it is to enforce the liability were extremely reluctant to do so in these circumstances and the Reverend of St Eadburgha's Church said she hoped the villagers would not have to pay. However, as a charitable organisation the PCC were in a very difficult position, if they failed to send out the letters the PCC would be deemed negligent and the costs of repairing the Chancel would fall on them.

It therefore came as a welcome reprieve to all parties concerned that the Charities Commission formally advised the PCC that they did not have to enforce the liability. Although a spokesperson for the Commission was quick to highlight that this decision did not set a precedent for other local communities and that future decisions would be made on a case to case basis.

Chancel Repair Liability will no longer be classed as an overriding interest at midnight on 12 October 2013

In practice this will mean that if there is no entry placed against the relevant title at the Land Registry by the aforementioned date then the liability is no longer enforceable. The same cannot be said of unregistered land subject to Chancel Repair Liability, which will remain liable until the property is registered.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.