Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Sunday Times article on Chancel Repair Liability

There was a reasonably accurate report by the Sunday times on Chancel Repair Liability but because it is behind a pay wall it is only partially visible (here) and then the Daily Mail created a rather more scaremongering version of it (here).
There were several things that interested me firstly the fact that the there were 247 parishes which have registered the liability although i suspect if cautions against first registration were included it may make it a higher number of 255 or so. I was very surprised by the number since I thought it would be nearer 120 or so  churches.

Is it right to register?

Each PCC has to make it's own reasonable decision in the light of the information in front of it. in the vast majority of examples it will clearly not be the right thing for a PCC to do due to either cost of finding the liable land or the reputational damage to the charity. Despite this in my opinion there will be instances as the law stands that registering the liability would be in the best interests of  at least some PCC's. Examples could include  where the owner of the land acquired land knowing of the liability and  at a reduced  cost, or  when the ancestors of the current owners created the liability in the first place via an enclosure act and  in some rare instances a previous owner indemnifies the current owner by the terms of a conveyance document.
I knew there would be some instances where registration would be the correct thing for a PCC to do, but I was surprised by how many there were.

Two Cases

There were two cases refereed to in the Sunday times which I shall a briefly look at.

Thrumpton Chancel Repair Liability  

The origins of the liability here would seem to be two sources of liability merged land and tithe (here) and a special award (here) and it would seem there is no map to mark out where the land that takes the liability is since no tithe map was made. How a PCC can register this liability without a map marking out the location of the land is a mystery but there could be a very good description of the land available or maybe exceptionally there was a map made.
I had always considered special awards for all intents and purposes an untraceable form of liability but the documents I link to would enable a greater understanding  of what the evidence is.

Lytham Chancel Repair Liability

According to the Daily Mail (The Sunday Times) 5,725 address have been registered by the liability which is a surprising number of plots. This amount of address would suggest the liability is apportioned by the 1936 Tithe Act and the record of Ascertainments detailing the apportionment (Lytham has not been digitised) and will be found  somewhere here. Each of these 5725 plots will take a small percentage of the liability of around  0.00017% of a chancel. It would cost a PCC a lot of money simply to pursue each owner for the small amount of liability they have since this liability is not personal and several.  In my opinion it makes more sense if either the owners of all the allotments of land are actually the same entity  or that the current owners of land have some form of indemnity given by a previous owner therefore the PCC only have to pursue one entity for the entire money.

The majority of churches (50%) which have chancel repair liability have only got apportioned liability like Lytham and for most PCC's the cost of  looking for this land and collecting the money exceeds any possible benefit.