Wrexham Solicitor warns about dangers of medieval law

A Wrexham solicitor has warned that the liability for some unsuspecting property owners to pay for costly repairs to the chancel of their local church under a law dating back to Henry Vlll will NOT end later this month when a provision in the Land Registration Act 2002 is implemented.

Wendy Marles, a Senior Solicitor with leading North Wales and Shropshire law firm GHP Legal, says the historic right will remain potentially enforceable in 5,000 ‘at risk' parishes across the country.

"Chancel Repair Liability originates from the 15th century when medieval-founded Anglican parish churches were given the legal right to demand payment from some parish property owners for repairs to the church chancel," says Mrs Marles.

"In some cases even as late as this century, property owners who didn't even realise they were liable have ended up having to pay out vast sums of money. We know that in this area there are properties at risk of being liable. I have come across such cases myself in, for example, Llangollen, Pontblyddyn, Corwen and Ruabon."

On 12th October 2013, under a provision in the Land Registration Act 2002, the Land Registry Office will seek to reduce the number of overriding interests, including Chancel Repairs, with register entries. Once a liability is registered it is an obligation which will last in perpetuity.

Property that is currently unregistered can be registered after 12th October 2013, free of any future liability to the chancel unless the right has been protected by Caution or Notice against first registration. For property registered prior to 12 October 2013, even if the Parochial Church Council (PCC) has not registered a Notice on the title by that date it may still do so right up until a sale or purchase of the property. Gifting or transferring the property to another party does not render it free of risk.

"Only once a sale or purchase has taken place after 12th October this year can you be certain a property is not liable for chancel repairs," says Mrs Marles. "Your solicitor can make a search at any time to see if your property falls within a ‘potentially at risk' parish, and if it does they can arrange for indemnity insurance. A more detailed search can be commissioned to find out if the property is actually at risk, but you would lose your right to insure cheaply against the risk of chancel repair if it is found to be liable."