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Home owners warned on church collections; Repair liability could result in hefty bill.

Byline: By DAVID HIMELFIELD News Reporter

HOUSE HOLDERS in Huddersfield have been warned: You could end up paying for repairs to your local church.

A medieval law means churches can make levies for vital repairs, as one couple discovered.

John and Stella Birch sold their Kirkburton home in December but during the process were advised to take out insurance for "chancel repair liability".

Chancel repair liability (CRL), which has existed since the middle ages, is a tax where people living on parish land were responsible for maintenance of their church's chancel.

The law was clarified in the Chancel Repairs Act 1932 and such liability can be enforced in the County Court.

CRL can apply to properties inside a Church of England parish with a church dating from the medieval period or earlier.

Andrew and Gail Wallbank were forced to pay almost pounds 500,000 following a Royal Courts of Justice ruling in February 2007.

In 1990 the couple received a letter demanding pounds 6,000 to repair the windows of a church in Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire, close to their plot. A legal battle ensued and in February the Wallbanks were ordered to pay pounds 189,969 on top of legal costs.

The Church of England has until 2012 to prove and register properties owing CRL. If the Church is unable to prove a property CRL by that date the duty will not apply.

Karen James, of Ramsdens Solicitors in Huddersfield, said: "The problem is property owners aren't up to speed on CRL.

"Solicitors can carry out a CRL search to see if you're in a risk area. If you are, take out an insurance policy because it not only will it cover for CRL but also for legal costs.

"If the church proves you have liability you are obliged to contribute.

"We try to encourage sellers to buy the insurance because if liability is later proved, it will be a blight on the seller's title."

CAPTION(S):

HOLY ORDER: Kirkburton church could legally claim money from the owners of houses built on parish land (PC070108F)
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jan 9, 2008
Words:345
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