Thousands of people living near historic churches in England and Wales could face demands for repairs under a 500 year old land law.
They are set to receive letters from the Land Registry warning that they may be responsible for paying repairs to their local churches after parishes were ordered to enforce the law.
Because of the way land was distributed after the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, some home owners situated close to historic churches may have a legal obligation to fund the repairs.
According to Jane Henshaw, head of Strutt & Parker's Building Consultancy, it means that people living in more than 5,000 parishes in England and Wales could be subject to the chancel repair liabilities which affect properties built on former monastic land.
Parishes will have to register the chancel repair with the Land Registry, trawling through land records dating back hundreds of years to clarify exactly who is liable.
‘If you receive a letter in the post, don't panic. Further information on the likely level of cost will be available from the Church of England as they regularly prepare Quinquennial Surveys of their churches, and this should explain the planned maintenance costs that can be reasonably anticipated,’ explained Henshaw.
‘Ask to see the document which may put your mind at rest over the level of likely expenditure. Another aspect is to understand what other properties are likely to share the cost with you. These two pieces of information should reveal the extent of your liabilities, which may not be at all significant,’ she added.
By 13 October 2013, parishes must record all houses that are liable for the ancient charge or face the responsibility themselves. English Heritage has announced that it will not provide grants for church repairs if the parishioners had a legal duty to pay which was not imposed by the church.
‘We can advise on issues related to this and it may also be worthwhile making enquiries of your solicitor in the first instance, and then if necessary, seek an insurance policy,’ said Henshaw.
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