Since medieval times, some Parochial Church Councils (PCCs) have been able to compel local residents to fund repairs to the chancel of their local parish church.
The “chancel” is the part of a church near the altar, which is reserved for the clergy and choir.
The law is now changing and soon a PCC will only be able to enforce chancel repair liability against a person who has purchased land on or after 13 October 2013, if the liability has been registered at the Land Registry before that date.
PCCs have therefore until 12 October 2013 to identify all affected land and to enter a notice in the register at the Land Registry (or lodge a caution against first registration if the property is not yet registered). If the PCC fails to do so, a person buying land on or after 13 October 2013 will take free of the liability – although those who have owned the property since before 13 October 2013 will still be bound.
If you are a member of an affected PCC, you may feel that it will harm relations with your local community to now register the PCC’s right. However, it is worth noting that a member of a PCC (which is after all a charity) could, at least in theory, be found personally liabile if he or she fails to take reasonable steps to protect and enforce the PCC’s rights. Failure to enforce the liability can also affect a PCCs ability to obtain grants.
The Charity Commission has published useful guidance, which can be found here.
If you are a member of a PCC and are concerned about chancel repair liability, or would like to register the PCCs rights with the Land Registry, then please contact us for advice.