View Full Version : Please help! Property laws - abandoned church

08-12-2008, 06:26 PM
I remember reading a story in the newspaper when I was about 10 about a convent that had been abandoned 50 years prior and the property was being taken over by the city. The story had explained that when the occupants initially left the property, the city attempted to take it over, but somebody with some connection to the church was claiming ownership - that the former occupants had gifted it to him - and due to some bylaw pertaining to church property the person had been granted 50 years to provide proof before it was declared abandoned and the city would have rights to it. I have a vague recollection that part of the issue was that the former occupants had not officially declared the property abandoned, and that church property didn't work the same as regular property because the owner was actually "the church" and there was a problem both with who specifically needed to provide the go-ahead for the new guy to officially be declared the owner, and how to contact certain people who were working in third world countries in missionary positions.

I was fascinated by the story, and it's a pivotal plot point in my current WIP. However, I've been trying to research exactly how this would have gone down, and to find some terminology that will lend some credence to the whole thing, which I'm afraid is going to come off as very unrealistic otherwise. I can't find anything at all on the original story (which was just a little throw-away article in a small town paper in the mid 80s) and I have found nothing about anything similar.

Has anyone heard of such a thing? Does it sound completely implausible? Can anyone steer me in the right direction to do some reading on how it would work?

Tsu Dho Nimh
08-12-2008, 08:24 PM
The "church" as a business entity would have to have a contact address for property taxes and the exemption paperwork, there would be titles registered, and all the usual paperwork from when they acquired a property.

If the church had acquired the property a long time ago, the records could be so out of date as to be useless and require a lot of sleuthing to find out what happened. Especially if it was not a mainstream church - those usually have one group that tracks property.

If it were a bequest to the church from a member you add in old wills and even more complexity.

Burn a couple of courthouses full of records and you get to industrial-grade who-owns-it

08-12-2008, 08:31 PM
Personally, I'd contact the local city hall (or whatever the equivalent is in Canada) and start there. If it's a small town, the city library might also be a spot to start. It's as likely as not that you'll find someone who remembers the case who might provide you with more details and/or contacts. If there's research librarian, s/he might be able to help you in that regard. I know that when I worked in a small city library (many moons ago), our librarians did that kind of thing.

Good luck in your hunt.

08-12-2008, 08:41 PM
Also try contacting a local branch of the demonination of the church (Protestant, Lutherian, Roman Catholic) you want in your story. They should have answers for you or at least can point you in the right direction. There was a church that was converted over to a restaurant in a town I go to often. I vaguely recall that there was a ritual the Church to essentially "desanctify" the church so the building itself could be used for secular purposes.