Devastated couple face repair bills for church

A COUPLE fear they could be slapped with a hefty bill for repairs to their local church after it registered its right to make them pay under an archaic law.

Elaine Hession and her partner Jonathan Hill said they had been left devastated after receiving a letter from the Land Registry stating St Mary’s Church, Stottesdon, could make them fork out for the upkeep of the building under the chancel repair liability law, passed by King Henry VIII.

About 24 people in the village could be caught out by the legislation, which states that they are legally obliged to fund repair costs at the church.

Miss Hession said: “The local church has registered their right to come to us with repairs. No-one will buy our houses now. They have made all our houses unsaleable . We were just devastated when we opened the letter .

“We haven’ t slept since we got this letter as we don ’t know who they are going to come after. It’s unbelievable.

“We never thought about it before because Jonathan inherited the property and nowhere is it in the deeds.”

She added the letter stated the person who used to own their land contributed to the church repairs and now they were liable .

“It’s a nightmare,” said Miss Hession.

“This is the behaviour of a ruthless corporate company, not the behaviour of a local church. It seems so underhand.”

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Hereford said: “The Parochial Church Council has followed the correct legal procedures for the registration of Chancel Repair Liability and has received a number of representations. The council will consider these as a matter of urgency."

Comments (14)

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11:03am Mon 24 Feb 14

km1968 says...

It's a protection racket - they'll offer to remove the liability in return for a one-off payment. Essentially "give us money or we'll ruin your life"
It's a protection racket - they'll offer to remove the liability in return for a one-off payment. Essentially "give us money or we'll ruin your life" km1968
  • Score: 5

1:11pm Mon 24 Feb 14

million77 says...

How christian of them. At least the church is showing its true face, thereby ensuring its continued decline to obsolescence.
Best wishes to those householders affected, hopefully the negative publicity will make the church think again.
How christian of them. At least the church is showing its true face, thereby ensuring its continued decline to obsolescence. Best wishes to those householders affected, hopefully the negative publicity will make the church think again. million77
  • Score: 11

2:47pm Mon 24 Feb 14

stour67 says...

This was brought up yrs ago by another couple made watch dog as they went to court and lost,as there bill was £250k ,it was then shown house holders living in roads etc with the words church, vicar etc,then there was a good chance it would affect them as well at sometime ,and the church are the biggest land owners in the country.
This was brought up yrs ago by another couple made watch dog as they went to court and lost,as there bill was £250k ,it was then shown house holders living in roads etc with the words church, vicar etc,then there was a good chance it would affect them as well at sometime ,and the church are the biggest land owners in the country. stour67
  • Score: 6

2:49pm Mon 24 Feb 14

AEtwell says...

Could the householders revert back to an ancient Roman law stating all Christians should be crucified?
Could the householders revert back to an ancient Roman law stating all Christians should be crucified? AEtwell
  • Score: 16

9:51pm Tue 25 Feb 14

timacheson says...

Victims of chancel repair liability MUST contact their local MP and ask him/her to push for immediate and full implementation of the recommendations of the definitive Law Commission report on the problem (Law Com. 152).

Only new legislation, as recommended by the Law Commission, and ideally also repealing the Chancel Repairs Act 1923, can end the medieval madness of village church councils persecuting their own neighbours in this way. PCCs tend to be small village cliques and CRL is giving them too much power over people's lives. Note that this is NOT calling for the abolition of existing legislation which is unlikely to happen, but rather the correcting of fundamental problems with it.

CRL is already wrecking the lives of thousands of ordinary people, making properties worthless and unsellable overnight and causing great distress. People commit suicide over lesser problems.

And it's just the tip of the iceberg! because most churches which could have registered the liability did not do so, and those which did register it were selective. BUT A PROPERTY IS STILL LIABLE EVEN WHEN THE LIABILITY IS NOT REGISTERED. So, many thousands of people are liable but blissfully unaware. In many parishes the liability is joint and several, which means if the church pursues one person for money through County Court, that person can and must pursue all of the others including properties not yet registered, and also the owner of properties which ARE registered against can register the liability to the church and also their own personal interest in those properties so that they do become registered. In other words, in these parishes the church council is forcing people to do their dirty work for them.

The judgement on the case of Aston Cantlow PCC v Wallbank (2001) provides information on the legal issues which are essential knowledge for those affected and their solicitors.

A coordinated national campaign is needed to correct the current situation which is clearly unacceptable both legally and morally.
Victims of chancel repair liability MUST contact their local MP and ask him/her to push for immediate and full implementation of the recommendations of the definitive Law Commission report on the problem (Law Com. 152). Only new legislation, as recommended by the Law Commission, and ideally also repealing the Chancel Repairs Act 1923, can end the medieval madness of village church councils persecuting their own neighbours in this way. PCCs tend to be small village cliques and CRL is giving them too much power over people's lives. Note that this is NOT calling for the abolition of existing legislation which is unlikely to happen, but rather the correcting of fundamental problems with it. CRL is already wrecking the lives of thousands of ordinary people, making properties worthless and unsellable overnight and causing great distress. People commit suicide over lesser problems. And it's just the tip of the iceberg! because most churches which could have registered the liability did not do so, and those which did register it were selective. BUT A PROPERTY IS STILL LIABLE EVEN WHEN THE LIABILITY IS NOT REGISTERED. So, many thousands of people are liable but blissfully unaware. In many parishes the liability is joint and several, which means if the church pursues one person for money through County Court, that person can and must pursue all of the others including properties not yet registered, and also the owner of properties which ARE registered against can register the liability to the church and also their own personal interest in those properties so that they do become registered. In other words, in these parishes the church council is forcing people to do their dirty work for them. The judgement on the case of Aston Cantlow PCC v Wallbank (2001) provides information on the legal issues which are essential knowledge for those affected and their solicitors. A coordinated national campaign is needed to correct the current situation which is clearly unacceptable both legally and morally. timacheson
  • Score: 7

2:53pm Wed 26 Feb 14

IGeoTre says...

Whilst I agree that the law is an **** in this instance, and it needs looking at, it's also not quite what is being made out.

The church have registered the liability, which they had to do by Oct 2013 or forfeit the right to ever do so. They've not presented anyone with a bill at this moment, and may never do so. Since the case mentioned above all new properties have had CRL checks, and insurance can be taken out.

Having a quick look online, the insurance isn't particularly cheap but it's not so steep as to make a house "unsaleable".
Whilst I agree that the law is an **** in this instance, and it needs looking at, it's also not quite what is being made out. The church have registered the liability, which they had to do by Oct 2013 or forfeit the right to ever do so. They've not presented anyone with a bill at this moment, and may never do so. Since the case mentioned above all new properties have had CRL checks, and insurance can be taken out. Having a quick look online, the insurance isn't particularly cheap but it's not so steep as to make a house "unsaleable". IGeoTre
  • Score: 0

3:00pm Wed 26 Feb 14

km1968 says...

IGeoTre, The CRL checks would not have found a liability if the PCC has only just registered it. This happened to us. There was no CRL registered and the local PCC in October tried to add it to our property.

Because we were then trying to insure against a known liability the insurance premium went through the roof.

Thankfully we managed to get the PCC to back down.
IGeoTre, The CRL checks would not have found a liability if the PCC has only just registered it. This happened to us. There was no CRL registered and the local PCC in October tried to add it to our property. Because we were then trying to insure against a known liability the insurance premium went through the roof. Thankfully we managed to get the PCC to back down. km1968
  • Score: 3

3:11pm Wed 26 Feb 14

IGeoTre says...

Appreciate it wouldn't have found it when the liability was not registered, and of course people that have owned the property pre-Wallbank may not have been aware until now or so.

What are we talking about money-wise for the premium? Saw a figure on moneysavingexpert of £700 for £400k worth of cover "in perpetuity".
Appreciate it wouldn't have found it when the liability was not registered, and of course people that have owned the property pre-Wallbank may not have been aware until now or so. What are we talking about money-wise for the premium? Saw a figure on moneysavingexpert of £700 for £400k worth of cover "in perpetuity". IGeoTre
  • Score: -1

3:16pm Wed 26 Feb 14

km1968 says...

It depends - if no CRL is shown then premiums can be low if CRL is recently registered and then you apply then the insurers consider the risk to be very high (and so premium)
It depends - if no CRL is shown then premiums can be low if CRL is recently registered and then you apply then the insurers consider the risk to be very high (and so premium) km1968
  • Score: 2

3:25pm Wed 26 Feb 14

IGeoTre says...

It does appear to vary wildly, and some are probably being ripped off by insurers. The £700 figure was for a known liability, in perpetuity, so passed on to subsequent owners.

The reality is that if you're covered up to say £400k as in the above example, it's highly unlikely that you would be solely liable should a claim be made, which is why the case above is so notable. So whatever the total claim is, that is going to be split several ways. Obviously that's potentially a major headache, as in Tim's 4th paragraph, but you've got insurance. Even at a high figure of £700 per household with a known liability, obviously the insurers anticipate making money.

Claims of that nature are terrible publicity for the Church. They're also in a corner though, struggling to maintain ancient buildings and finding that other funders won't give them grants until they have exhausted all other sources, including CRL.

They are working on their mineral rights though, so they might be pretty flush with a bit of fracking and lose interest in CRL.
It does appear to vary wildly, and some are probably being ripped off by insurers. The £700 figure was for a known liability, in perpetuity, so passed on to subsequent owners. The reality is that if you're covered up to say £400k as in the above example, it's highly unlikely that you would be solely liable should a claim be made, which is why the case above is so notable. So whatever the total claim is, that is going to be split several ways. Obviously that's potentially a major headache, as in Tim's 4th paragraph, but you've got insurance. Even at a high figure of £700 per household with a known liability, obviously the insurers anticipate making money. Claims of that nature are terrible publicity for the Church. They're also in a corner though, struggling to maintain ancient buildings and finding that other funders won't give them grants until they have exhausted all other sources, including CRL. They are working on their mineral rights though, so they might be pretty flush with a bit of fracking and lose interest in CRL. IGeoTre
  • Score: 1

3:30pm Wed 26 Feb 14

km1968 says...

It's the only thing the churches are interested in, money. If the worshipers can't or won't pay to restore the church - let it fall down.
It's the only thing the churches are interested in, money. If the worshipers can't or won't pay to restore the church - let it fall down. km1968
  • Score: 2

3:46pm Wed 26 Feb 14

IGeoTre says...

Unfortunately that's a bit like suggesting that if all the old aristocrats couldn't afford to maintain their mansions they should be left to ruin. Those that did suffer this fate are mourned over. CRL churches are more likely than most to be of historic/heritage interest.

Needs to be sorted out before the PCC's have no choice but to enforce liabilities.
Unfortunately that's a bit like suggesting that if all the old aristocrats couldn't afford to maintain their mansions they should be left to ruin. Those that did suffer this fate are mourned over. CRL churches are more likely than most to be of historic/heritage interest. Needs to be sorted out before the PCC's have no choice but to enforce liabilities. IGeoTre
  • Score: -1

3:48pm Wed 26 Feb 14

km1968 says...

Sorry but if the attendees can't or won't pay then the church has no business being there.
Sorry but if the attendees can't or won't pay then the church has no business being there. km1968
  • Score: 2

8:23am Fri 14 Mar 14

David Gerard says...

The National Secular Society petition is here: https://www.change.o
rg/en-GB/petitions/t
he-rt-hon-chris-gray
ling-mp-abolish-chan
cel-repair-liability
-2
The National Secular Society petition is here: https://www.change.o rg/en-GB/petitions/t he-rt-hon-chris-gray ling-mp-abolish-chan cel-repair-liability -2 David Gerard
  • Score: 1

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