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."