A bill to abolish chancel repair liability has been successfully introduced into the House of Lords.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury (pictured) yesterday brought forward the Chancel Repairs Bill for its first reading.
The proposed legislation seeks to ‘end the liability of lay rectors for the repair of chancels’ – in other words abolishing the demands for landowners to fund repairs to their parish church.
Parochial church councils (PCCs) had until last October to register the liability with the Land Registry, and campaigners claim the ancient law is affecting property prices and house sales as would-be buyers baulk at the potential repair costs.
The only way to remove a liability currently is to either prove it is incorrect or persuade the PCC to withdraw it.
Lord Avebury said: ‘Thousands of landowners’ titles are still today blighted by chancel repair liability, this relic of mediaeval ecclesiastical law. Titles that have been registered by the Church with the Land Registry are those most likely to be adversely affected.
‘This generally leads to a distressing reduction in value and even an impairment of saleability, even though the church never enforces the liability.’
The private members’ bill applies only to England, as it is believed to be a devolved matter.
The Law Commission and the Law Society are among the groups that have recommended abolition or phasing out of chancel repair rights in the past.
Lord Avebury has been assisted in preparing the bill by the National Secular Society – a long-time campaigner against the liability.
The society, which is running a petition to have the liability abolished, said registration notices have been served on the owners of around 12,000 properties but many more could be subject to CRL.
‘Some people have been traumatised by the realisation that their property is subject to CRL, but many have not yet realised just how damaging CRL could be,’ said a spokesman.
‘Few potential buyers will contemplate taking on the burden of a property subject to CRL, particularly where it is registered, so its value will be reduced and, in some cases, may become unsellable.’