Thursday, 8 November 2012

Henry VIII property law hits homeowners

Families could face large bills to repair their local church after parishes were ordered to enforce a law passed after the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII.

The Land Registry will be sending out warnings to the owners of many houses sited near historic churches and they could be in for a real shock.

Nita Patel, who leads our property team, said the rules came about because of the way the land was distributed after the dissolution of the monasteries.

"It means the owners of such properties have a legal obligation to contribute to church repairs, even if they have never attended a service."

Across 5,000 parishes in England, people are subject to the rules known as Chancel Repair Liabilities, as they live in properties built on land formerly owned by the monasteries.

"Many homeowners take out insurance against their liabilities, but many more are completely unaware of their legal obligations as the law is very rarely enforced," said Nita.

But a high profile court case in 2003 led to the last Government trying to tidy up the difficult situation.

"The court case came about after a parish church billed a couple for almost £100,000 in repairs, and it went on for years leading to considerable additional court costs," said Nita. "As a result, parishes were ordered to go back through land records dating back centuries to clarify exactly who may be liable for costs, and to register all the properties concerned before October 13, 2013.

"The ten-year deadline is fast approaching, and local parishes will find they could be legally responsible if they don't complete the registration process in time.

"This law could have a dramatic effect on many properties across Shropshire and it's vital that homeowners find out whether they are affected. No-one wants to be faced with an unexpected bill that could run into thousands of pounds, and if homeowners know in advance they can take steps to protect themselves with the right insurance cover."