Did you see the piece on the BBC where freeholders suddenly found out the responsibility that goes with that status ?
An ancient law which can force homeowners to pay for their local church’s repairs is blighting properties and depressing house sales, say campaigners. But what is chancel repair liability and what is the best way to deal with it?
When Elaine Hession opened the letter she almost passed out and her partner Jonathan Hill turned “as white as a ghost”.
In February 2014 the couple received a notice from the Land Registry informing them their local church had registered its right to make them contribute to the cost of repairs.
While I can understand their distress I do not agree with blaming it on an ancient law called Chancel repair liability. The ancient law that needs replacement is actually Freehold possession, which is certainly old and very much needs to overhauled.
Freehold possession in this day is a very dubious concept. Maybe it had legitimacy when the King owned the land and could dispense it as he pleased. It was a responsible position and title hence the requirement to look after the church. But these days, now that even the peasants can ‘own’ a bit of land and are reluctant to take onto their consequent responsibilities it is really time for a change.
We are a small(ish) island and yet we seem to think bits of the land that makes up this country can be possessed by payment of ‘fee simple’ for perpetuity. The ‘public’ rail against immigrants, but seem happy for foreign nationals to buy up our land for ever. Just seems totally ridiculous to me and the end of Freehold possession cannot come soon enough. I will outline a simple transition plan to a more sensible arrangement in a later post.
Next year is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, which includes this :
“No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the land.”
Perhaps the next parliament would be a good and fitting time to change the Law of the land and abolish Freehold tenure.