Chancel Repair Liability
If you have an ancient parish church, or a church built on an old site, it is possible that a person or body other than the PCC has responsibility for paying for the repairs to the chancel, at least in part.
Historically, the owner of certain land in a parish had the legal responsibility to maintain the chancel of the parish church. The chancel is the part of the church, usually at the East end, where the altar stands in the sanctuary, and the choir pews traditionally are located. The person with responsibility to maintain the chancel is known as the “lay rector”.
The lay rector may be a private person or persons, or an institution, e.g. the Church Commissioners or an Oxbridge College, or a combination of persons and institutions. Not every church has a lay rector but many do. Depending on the particular type and origin of the chancel repair liability, some of the liability already may have been transferred to the PCC by law.
If your church was built after 1840 on land on which a church had not been previously built, then your church will not have a lay rector. In these cases the PCC need not concern itself with chancel repair liability. However, please do exercise caution in considering the age of your church; many churches have been built and rebuilt several times over and it is often not possible to identify a single date when the church was built.
Over the centuries the law has evolved and changed; in some cases the liability may continue to be attached to land and in other instances it is no longer related to the ownership of land.
The law changed in October 2013 with regard to chancel repair liability. The change in the law required that chancel repair liabilities which were attached to land were registered at the Land Registry before October 2013. In some circumstances, it may still be possible to register chancel repair liability. Resources available to assist clergy, churchwardens and PCC’s include these listed below and are all available to download.
- Letter sent July 2010 to parish clergy and churchwardens in the Diocese of York from the Archdeacons of York, Cleveland and the East Riding and the Diocesan Registrar.
- Notes of Guidance (July 2010, Minor Revision October 2011) issued by the Diocesan Registrar.
- Chancel Repair Liability (CRL) – A Step by Step Guide to registering CRL at Land Registry (written by Chris Chambers)
- October 2012 mailing to Parish Clergy and Churchwardens in the Diocese of York on Chancel Repair Liability
- Your Archdeacon or the Registrar
If your church may have a lay rector, then parish clergy and churchwardens are encouraged to download and read the resource material listed above.
The change in the law does not affect chancel repair liability which is not attached to land. Such a liability does not need to be registered under the 2002 Act, and it will continue unless and until a Government repeals chancel repair liability.