Friday, 8 February 2013

The Iniquity of Chancel Repair Liability

Introduction

Over the past 6 months there has been a change by various organisation the new heritage Lottery fund  no longer insisting that a PCC should pursue a Lay Rector even it is unreasonable and the clearer advice given by the Charity commission all have enabled PCC's to be able to make a decision that hopefully avoids causing a conflict between the PCC's Christian duty of care and it's fiducial duty to the Charity. Still these changes have not changed the inherent need for a PCC to investigate Chancel Repair Liability.

Many parishes liabilities are fairly simple from one extreme there is one or two plots of land bearing the liability and a PCC have to make a decision based on current ownership. In other cases they have to make a decision on is it worth notifying the liability on hundreds of plots of land to collect very small amounts of money from each owner.
There are  though a number of parishes where the traceable liabilities are far more complex where there are dozens of plots of land scattered over many miles each bearing either complete liability for the chancel or partial liability.

Keeping track of  the liability

Each township in a given parish will have a different set of maps done by different people in their own unique style. A tithe commissioner may have noted down the plots bearing the liability under merged land and tithe in one township but  in the neighbouring township  this was not done. If an Enclosure plan was produced which was not always the case the plan will almost certainly note the land given in lieu of tithes but I have seen an example where this was forgotten.
In the case of enclosure award liability it is often recorded on the deeds of the property. Yet in the case of the largest form of liability; tithe rentcharge apportioned under the 1936 Tithe Act and the second largest, merged land of Tithe under the 1839 Tithe Act,  it does not seem to have been recorded on title deeds. Despite this many old tithe and enclosure maps are quite good and with modern mapping services plots can be found.

The PCC's dilemma 


There may well dozens of plots of land carrying the liability some written on the deeds of the property but by far the most not done so. Some of the liability on a particular plot will be a fraction of 1% but with the neighbouring plot possibly bearing complete liability. 
Should the PCC register any liability or not and if so which plot?  Or should they aim to register all the plots which would be probably be very expensive and maybe impossible anyway? Would a PCC simply avoid plots with houses on it and register it on land with large organisations although that  would be hard to determine until late on into any investigation. A PCC may well find it simply not cost efficient to chase those with apportioned liability and people who have taken insurance with this form of liability have paid more in insurance that the actual liability.
The PCC could opt to write to the charity commissioners that to notify the liability would cause damage to the reputation of the charity but this might be true on one of the plots but  not necessarily   on all of them.



The Lay Rector's Dilemma 

As it stands at the moment a PCC can give the bill to one Lay Rector who in turn can look for other Lay Rectors to share the cost of the repair of chancel. After October the 13th the PCC can still give the bill to one Lay Rector but this Lay Rector will be unable to share the repairs with other Rectors unless the liability has been registered.
What should the Lay Rector do? Since they may well be personally and severally responsible for the chancel and yet a change in law has deprived them of the ability to share this liability.
A Lay Rector cannot register the liability against another Lay Rector since the benefit lies with the PCC and there is no advantage to a PCC to go looking for all the many possible Lay Rectors.(Please see update below)

Conclusion

The change of law has benefited buyers of property since they can buy with certainty that there is no chancel repair liability but it is has significantly disadvantaged lay rectors where the liability already has been registered. I am certain that this is is causing some PCC's a bit of a headache and may well cause other people headaches.

Yes the changes that have come about are helpful and thanks are due to Peter Luff MP but still it all remains slightly bonkers, confusing and iniquitous. 

If you are a member of a PCC and looking for guidance I have some helps here


Update 


Well one of my few readers of the blog suggests that it is possible for one Lay Rector to register against the land of another as they do have an interest in the land but this may well have to be tested in court..

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