Church bill forces couple out of home

A couple are being forced to sell their farmhouse after being landed with a £230,000 bill to repair their local church.

An ancient law makes the owners of Glebe Farm liable for major repairs to St John the Baptist church at Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire.

wallbanks of glebe farm aston cantlow  
The Wallbanks were presented with a bill for £230,000-worth of church repairs.

Andrew and Gail Wallbank, who inherited the farmhouse in 1990, were presented with a bill by the parochial church council shortly afterwards.

The couple are now auctioning their property with a £500,000 guide price after losing an 18-year legal fight last December.

They intend to use the money raised to pay for the repairs, meet their legal fees and buy whoever purchases the farmhouse out of the liability.

“We really didn’t want to sell but we have no choice,” Adrian Wallbank told The Guardian. “We will see very little change from the sale of the house.”

The couple are responsible under a “chancel repair liability” clause that arose when the church gave the farm 1.1 hectares (2.75 acres) of land.

In exchange for the land, the owners of Glebe Farm were named as lay rectors and agreed to pay for some church repairs.

Lay rectors are liable for keeping the chancel around the altar weatherproof.

About 5200 churches are believed to be able to demand money from owners of properties on former monastery land to fund repairs to buildings.

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