I can’t help looking at Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell on Wolf Hall without a cursory thought for, as Donald Rumsfeld would have characterised, the unknown unknown of Chancel Repair Liability.
Almost 500 years later Chancel Repair Liability is still with us and a day to day irritation for house buyers and Conveyancing Solicitors alike.
Catch the full story as it unfolded here
House of Lords Debate
Chancel Repair Liability popped up again in a House of Lords debate a couple of weeks ago.
There is already a Chancel Repair Bill before Parliament (its progress postponed until after the General Election) so Lord Avebury asked what steps the Government were taking to abolish the liability of private householders and others for chancel repair.
In amongst the landed gentry, wealthy institutions and ancient colleges who rightly have a responsibility for the repair of Chancels on land they own there is, as Baroness Wilcox in the House of Lords debate is the often quoted worst case scenario:
an unsuspecting person of modest means [who} buys an unassuming house despite having taken all possible precautions, that they are liable for a bill of a quarter of a million pounds to mend the church roof.
The Baroness rightly added she did not know how often this state of affairs has actually happened.
So, despite the cack-handed attempts by Parliament to rid us of Chancel Repair Liability - it’s still here.
Edingale and Compounding of the Chancel Repair Liability
Edingale was mentioned as a documented case where compounding (paying a one off payment) of the Chancel Repair liability had occurred.
I know that case well as I was rolled out as the legal expert in Chancel Repair Liability for the BBC 1 programme Rip Off Britain to discuss the background to the Liability.
I even filmed in the charming village Edingale itself.
In that case I am pleased to say as Lord Avebury noted:
after long and stressful negotiations £45 was accepted from a householder to extinguish her liability to pay Chancel Repair Liability of thousands of times that amount if it had been recoverable
What The Government Said About Abolition of Chancel Repair Liability
Lord Ashton of Hyde giving the Government response said that the Government are not developing any proposals for reform at present.
The Government does not have the statistics indicating how many ordinary householders are affected, but the Land Registry has received about 9,000 applications for registration of notices and 160 applications for the registration of a caution against first registration.
The Real Reason for No Progress in Reform of Chancel Repair Liability?
Lord Ashton perhaps hit the nail on the head when he stated that:
Abolition would almost certainly require compensation
The only crumb of comfort is that the House was assured that:
the Ministry of Justice will consider evidence of actual hardship or general problems that the law may cause and will keep the situation under review.
What Does Chancel Repair Liability Mean for House Buyers in 2015?
When you are buying your new house your Conveyancing Solicitor will at the very least carry out a Chancel Repair Liability search and may have to take out an insurance on your behalf against the possibility a claim on you to repair the Chancel of nearby medieval church.
See for yourself below how Chancel Repair Liability may affect you