Chancel Repair Liability
Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald, Conservative)
The main issue, though, is that it is a valid property right that has been upheld by the House of Lords. I will say a little more about the hon. Lady’s point as my speech develops.
In most situations concerning private property rights, only the parties directly involved are engaged, but with chancel repair liability, the surrounding issues may be important for the relationship of the clergy, congregation and wider community in parishes where the liability exists and may be enforced. The approach of the deadline for registration may well have given everyone in those groups pause for thought.
In the midst of all the activity that registration or the consideration of registration may have produced, however, we should not forget the essential fact that the existence of chancel repair liability over a property is long standing. No new liabilities have been created. The registration of a notice of the liability or a caution against first registration on the land register merely preserves the right to make a claim. Properties subject to a notice or a caution are therefore not subject to a new obligation. In legal terms, in relation to such properties, nothing has really changed.
Of course, if the owners did not know about the obligation before registration, they will no doubt want to be sure that the registration is correct, but the issues brought out by registration would have arisen had the owner of the liability sought to enforce it. Failure to register may make a liability unenforceable, but registration does not guarantee that the claimed liability is legally enforceable. Whether a claim is sustainable will depend on the facts of the case. Homeowners and other landowners remain as free as they are at present to contest a claim. What registration removes is the uncertainty and unpredictability—the lack of discoverability—that currently surround the possible existence of chancel repair liability.