Saturday, 10 November 2012

Charlbury Chancel Repair Liability

A Brave PCC

I am certain there are other PCC's who have made the same decision as Charlbury PCC  and decided not to  fully investigate the liability and not to enforce it who ever holds the liability. Quoting from their website 'On 9 March 2009 the PCC of Charlbury passed a resolution saying that they were not aware of any claims for chancel repair liability in the parish and that they would not pursue any such claims in perpetuity. Therefore people wishing to sell, or to buy, any land in the parish of Charlbury no longer need to buy insurance against hypothetical chancel repair liabilities'
It is clear that to me that this is a brave PCC assuming they did not communicate with the Charity Commission.

The legal situation

From the legal advice of the Church of England it says 'Members of a PCC who act in breach of these fiduciary duties may be required to make good any loss which the PCC has incurred as a result of that breach, out of  their own personal resources.  They may also face an inquiry by the Charity  Commission and, in consequence, exposure to the exercise of the Commission’s protective and remedial powers'

On the same place that 'Additionally, the Commission strongly recommends that if a PCC considers, after careful consideration of the principle described above, that it would be contrary to its interests to enforce chancel repair liability to which it is entitled, or to register notice of it, the PCC should seek formal advice from the Charity Commission on whether not enforcing the liability would be consistent with the fiduciary duties of its members.'

This seems to put the onus on PCC's to investigate the liability but not necessarily to notify or enforce the liability and since the Charity Commissioners have clarified the situation it seems that non-notification of the liability is more likely to be acceptable.

Is there Liability in Charlbury?

Like all such things it is an unknown until detailed research is carried out at various Archives. Yet a brief amount of research suggests there is apportioned liability under Charlbury's record of Ascertainments  and small amount of liability maybe the responsibility of an Oxbridge college as identified in the 1887 Land Commission report and there may be Monastic glebe as well. I think it is likely that the apportioned liability is  not worth pursuing and they could have written to the Charity Commissioners making that case.

What do you think?

Is this right decision on behalf of the charity? legally morally? Is it right to let the Oxbridge College off the hook for a legal obligation they may have had for couple hundred or so of years?
Personally I would have investigated the issue fully before coming to any conclusion but every PCC has to make it's own mind and balance what is best for the charity taking into account personal risk. My PCC action sheet for PCC's is found here.

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