The Law Society reported recently that the Parochial Church Council of St Mary the Virgin in Horsell, Woking, has decided not to enforce or impose chancel repair liability on its community. For those affected in this parish there will be a huge sigh of relief to have this potentially crippling liability removed…but is that really the case?
The church of St Mary the Virgin in Horsell has confirmed this morning that the Law Society Gazette has misreported the demise of chancel repair liability in its parish. As the liability was neither compounded nor a deed of relinquishment issued, despite stating an intention on the part of the current Parochial Church Council not to enforce the liability, they have still retained the right to do so at any point in the future. What the PCC have stated, is that they have gained permission from the Charities Commission not to enforce at this time.
There are only two ways to legally and permanently remove chancel repair liability, either by compounding the liability or issuing a Deed of Relinquishment.
Compounding Liability for Chancel Repairs
S52 (2) of the Ecclesiastical Dilapidations Measure 1923 and as amended by the Ecclesiastical Dilapidations (Amendment) Measure 1929 (Canterbury and York provinces only) this does not cover Monmouth and Wales. It applies to someone who is legally responsible for the WHOLE repair of a chancel and must involve a sum estimated to cover the cost of all future repairs to the chancel for which that person is liable (you cannot compound for a liability you do not have responsibility for) and also to provide a capital sum sufficient to insure the chancel against destruction by fire.
Deed of Relinquishment
This would be issued to all those that are potentially liable for chancel repair liability. A Deed of Relinquishment is a legal document where a person or organisation legally gives up their legal right to formally claim in the future; in this instance, the church/PCC would relinquish all such rights and this would be registered against titles within the relevant parish.
If Compounding or a Deed of Relinquishment is not made, then chancel repair liability can still be claimed upon by the PCC in the future as is the case with church of St Mary the Virgin in Horsell. Parochial Church Councils are re-elected on a regular basis and when an actual repair to the chancel is required, perhaps the PCC will have a change of heart – they have certainly left themselves the legal right to do so…
Therefore, if your client is potentially liable for CRL, it is essential that insurance is still purchased as future PCC’s may not carry the same charitable opinion as this one does currently.
The Land Registry is still reporting a significant number of Unilateral Notices being issued against properties by the church for chancel repair liability (and mineral rights…). The law changed on 13th October this year but the liability is still a clear and present danger to homeowners in England and Wales whose properties remain unsold.
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Please see the Law Society’s report here