Church maintenance laws in Britain

by Walter Olson on October 13, 2012

They’re tripping up some unwary homeowners: “1000s of families could be caught by church repair bills as archaic rights revived” [Telegraph, more]

{ 5 comments }

1 Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk 10.13.12 at 1:28 pm

Hilarious. Heaven help you if you publicly espouse traditional church teachings in Britain (such as disparaging the moral status of homosexuality), but you must fork over funds to keep up the buildings.

2 Colin 10.13.12 at 1:36 pm

These obligations are set out in either the Deeds or the Land Registry entries (deeds are being replaced by the Register entries so that in the future the Register has the definitive details).
Any competent solicitor or conveyancer will advise their client before purchase.

Obviously, a number do – hence the comment about insurance – I guess that some take the view that it will never happen

3 Bumper 10.14.12 at 2:04 am

I just guessing here but maybe it has something to do with it being called the Church of England. And if they did take the “excess” land away from the churches under the promise of the new owners paying for the future upkeep of the churches, even if it was 5 centuries ago, a deal is a deal.

4 Colin 10.15.12 at 3:25 am

A lot of the local communities wanted to retain the church building (at the Dissolution) and the only way to do that was to buy it from the King’s Commissioners (Henry VIII).
The maintenance arrangements were set up at the same time, however, the Church of England was established and collected tithes (10% taxes – usually in kind hence the number of “tithe barns”). When the tithe system was abolished in the early 20th centuary, the CoE found that it was reliant on donations. In many cases, historic buildings are in need of repair – restoration which is a lot more expensive than a simple fix.

As every organisation is under budget pressure, all possible resources are being explored.

5 DOuglas2 10.15.12 at 7:26 am

The controversy is that the notices of potential liability are coming out of the blue. Some had family lore for inherited properties that there was a title of lay rector that passed with the property, but in some cases the title and obligations were not registered on deeds or conveyed in writing with the subdivision of properties. In the most publicized case, refusal by to pay a repair bill of £2000 escalated into a legal battle of over a decade where the property owner’s legal bills were over £400,000 — and he knew about the title in advance.
The current furor is because all such encumbrances were to be registered by Saturday of last week. And the members of parish church councils have been put on notice that they can be held personally responsible for future repair costs if such encumbrances exist but are not registered in time.
Most churches would not want to alienate people with such demands, but the other logical places for getting money to repair ancient landmark buildings have had a blanket policy that considers chancel repairs where there is a lay rector to be outside the scope of grant aid.
Tough to be in a parish with a 1000-year old building to maintain and perhaps just a few dozen active elderly parishioners in a rural area.

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