In 2003, Andrew and Gail Wallbank received a bill for almost £100,000 to fund repairs of their ecclesiastical parish’s medieval church. After a seven year legal battle, the Courts found in favour of the parish council and the Wallbanks were left with a staggering £350,000 bill, which included legal costs.
What had happened is that the Wallbanks’ parish council had invoked an ancient law, known as a Chancel Repair Liability. This is a liability on some property owners in England and Wales to fund repairs to the chancel of their local medieval Anglican parish church. In the vast majority of parishes, such a liability has fallen into disuse. Unfortunately for the Wallbanks, this was not the case in their parish.
It is now common practice for new purchasers of property to check, via their legal advisers, as to whether the local parish includes a church over which a Chancel Repair Liability might be invoked and, if so, to take out what is known as Chancel Liability Insurance to cover any such claim.
Through provisions made under the Land Registration Act 2002, the onus has now been put on parish councils to identify all affected land and to register their interests before 13th October 2013. After that date, new purchasers of land will only be bound by a Chancel Repair Liability if the interests of the parish council in question have been registered at the Land Registry.
24th October 2012