Following media interest earlier this week, we thought that it would be useful to re-iterate some of the information relating to Chancel Repair Liability, (CRL), from the earlier post which outlined the position after the expiry of the midnight deadline for registration 12 October 2013. There have been no new legal developments (or apparently any claims) regarding CRL since that date, but in the slack news period over the Christmas/New Year break, a number of newspapers based their stories on FoI requests earlier in the year to the Land Registry. The Daily Mail reports
“247 churches have so far registered 12,276 homes or plots of land as being liable. Letters informing the owners have been sent out by the Land Registry, which manages the list, the Sunday Times reported yesterday. However as many as 5,000 parish churches have yet to register their rights, meaning the final total could be significantly higher.”
The figure relating to the number of titles affected supported by exchanges with Land Registry, here, and a subsequent response, here, indicated that at 4 November 2013 there had been 3,609 entries of titles affected by chancel repair between 2002 and 12 October 2013 (with a further 8 since then).
A useful analysis of these recent reports has been made Greg Yerbury, here.
Although the origins of CRL date back to the time of Henry VIII, the provisions under which it is enforced are relatively recent. Until 1932, enforcement proceedings took place in the ecclesiastical courts, but the UK Government brought in the Chancel Repair Act 1932 whereby jurisdiction passed to the secular courts and responsibility for its enforcement was placed on the PCC of the parish concerned . There have been attempts at phasing out CRL: in February 1982, the General Synod of the Church of England overwhelmingly supported a motion approving a phasing out of chancel repair liability; and in 1985, the Law Commission published a paper on its reform, recommending phasing it out over a 10-year period.
The Church of England helpfully summarizes the post 12 October position:
– If the liability is not registered by 2013, liability is still enforceable against the then owner of the relevant land until he or she disposes of the land. It is only a successor in title who is freed from the unregistered liability;
– As long as liability is registered by 2013, then all future owners of the relevant land are liable for their due share (unless they compound the liability as provided for under the Ecclesiastical Dilapidations Measure 1923);
– Liability registration can still be achieved after October 2013 but it will only be effective in continuing chancel repair liability if there has been no sale of the subject land since October 2013. Also, the Land Registry will charge a fee [for applications after 11 October 2013].
An important caveat is that in terms of “new owners” it is possible that where property changes hands “without valuable consideration”, i.e. where no money or a nominal sum is handed over, such as under the terms of a Will, the land may still have a Chancel Repair Liability past the cut-off date.
With regard to the statement that “as many as 5,000 parish churches have yet to register their rights”, this appears to be based upon CofE estimates of the number of parishes subject to CRL. There is no central Church of England register of parishes where Chancel Repair Liability may exist, but recent estimates suggest a figure of 5,200 parishes, involving 3,780,500 acres of land. Of this the Church Commissioners, Ecclesiastical Corporations such as Deans and Chapters of Cathedrals, Oxford, Cambridge and Durham Universities and their constituent colleges, Winchester College and Eton College are estimated to have responsibility for about 1,200 chancels.
In conclusion, whilst some might regard some of the media reports as scaremongering, Chancel Repair Liability remains an issue for existing owners, properties that have been registered by the PCC, and where ownership has changed “without valuable consideration”. As the Law Society noted on 16 December 2013 “Chancel repair liability still an issue for conveyancers” . A further area of concern is the extent to which this liability is “joint and several””.
And see the comments of Greg Yerbury and Michael Hall, below.
 The Act does not apply to the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
 This article incorrectly states that midnight on 13 October 2013 was the threshold for the provisions on registration.
 See paragraph 13 and footnotes 10 & 11 of the Church of England Opinion of the Church of England Advisory Commission on Chancel Repair Liability.
At L&RUK we do not give legal advice, or purport to do so. This post summarizes the issues relating to Chancel Repair Liability at the time of writing. For specific queries on the application of this and related legislation, professional advice should be sought.