Horsell church opts out of ancient right

MORE than 1,500 households in Horsell have been spared the worst effects of an ancient law which gives some medieval churches the right to demand financial contributions towards repairs from local property owners.

The Chancel Repair Liability, which dates back to the 1530s and was altered by Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, has been the subject of several high profile court cases which have seen homeowners in England forced to pay signif-icant sums to fix-up their local church, with some even being forced to sell their homes to do so.

COMMUNITY FIRST – St Mary’s in Horsell

COMMUNITY FIRST – St Mary’s in Horsell

In a decision that will come as a relief to the village, St Mary’s Church, in Wilson Way has made the decision not to enforce or impose Chancel Repair Liability on its parishioners and the wider community, most of who would have been totally unaware of their financial responsibilities.

The 800-year-old church said that it felt its missionary and community objectives far outweighed the potential financial benefits.

Woking-based solicitors Mackrell Turner Garrett, who have extensive experience of property legal matters, applauded the decision. MTG partner Derek Austin said: “Chancel Repair Liability is a controversial law which has been under much scrutiny in the past few years.

“Parochial Church Councils in England and Wales had until October 13 to register a notice of claim with the land registry against individual properties to preserve their rights – or potentially lose them.

“However, there are still some cases where PCCs can register a notice after this time and homeowners could still face liability, for example where a property is gifted to someone or left in a will.

“There are conflicting views within the legal profession as to the extent of continuing and future liability, which may still need to be resolved by the courts.

“If only more church councils would follow the lead of Horsell, property owners would know they can bury this ancient liability where it belongs, in the annals of history, and avoid having to take out expensive insurance policies to cover the associated risks.

“In recent years we have had to place indemnity policies on risk with premiums ranging from less than £50 to more than £5,000 on some local properties.

“The recent changes in the law mean this should no longer be necessary in most transactions in England and Wales, and as a result of the decision we can say with certainty it will no longer be required for any properties located in the Horsell parish.”

The rights of medieval churches to claim money for repairs from households built on land that it once owned was confirmed in the Land Registry Act passed in 2002 and in various cases before the courts.

However, in a move by the Government 10 years ago to abolish the law, churches that wanted to uphold the right to claim money were given until October 2013 to register a claim against any liable properties.

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