This section summarizes the provision and maintenance of housing for parochial clergy. Other forms of information such as the Guide for Residents and the Chelmsford Quality Standard Guide are available from our website and are also referred within this document.
Different procedures exist for Bishops and Archdeacons and other clergy holding diocesan appointments; these can vary between individual cases and are not discussed further in this document
All parochial clergy housing, other than that owned by PCCs, is maintained and administered by the Property Department of the Diocesan Office. The department works under the direction of the Senior Property Manager within policy stipulations determined by the Houses Committee. The housing stock of around 420 properties can be generally divided into two categories; houses for clergy of incumbent status, and those for assistant stipendiary ministers.
A Guide for Residents is sent to all new clergy residing in such houses for the first time. This sets out the arrangements for repairs to be reported and carried out and also explains who is responsible for repairing different fixtures and fittings etc and indicates how soon repair issues will be dealt with by our contractors. This should be retained for future reference although will periodically be updated and revised. Further copies can be obtained from the Property Department or from the CDBF website.
Housing for Clergy of Incumbent Status
Guidance on the appropriate standard of accommodation for clergy of incumbent status is provided by the Chelmsford Quality Standard Guide which gives advice on the standard of housing the DBF aim to provide. The Diocese also uses the guide as a template to ascertain whether existing housing is suitable. Clearly, not all criteria can be met in every case, and conditions vary from area to area and from house to house. These properties may be benefice houses held by the incumbent under the Parsonages Measures or, in the case of team vicarages, owned by the DBF as diocesan glebe. Some team vicarages, however, are owned by the DBF as corporate property and a few are in parochial or trust ownership.
Assistant Clergy Housing
Assistant clergy housing may be owned by the DBF as corporate or glebe property, or held in trust for individual PCCs. The current policy adopted for the provision of new properties, where there is no existing house, is often to seek to rent a property for the duration of the curacy, rather than to purchase the freehold. If a suitable rented solution cannot be found, then the Board will give consideration to purchasing a house subject to the availability of capital funding.
Expenses Met by the Diocese
The Diocesan Board of Finance meets the following expenses:
Water Rates - Accounts for general water rates and authorised septic tank maintenance should be forwarded for payment to the Property Department at the Diocesan Office. Residents are expected to pay for water sprinkler charges. Many more houses are now being metered for water usage and residents are requested to use water wisely.
Council Tax - The Board of Finance meets all Council Tax payments incurred by properties in the Diocese occupied by stipendiary diocesan clergy. Any accounts or correspondence on the subject should be forwarded to the Property Department.
Insurance - All parsonage houses, team vicarages and such curates houses as are owned by the DBF are insured under the Diocesan buildings policy with the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group. This covers the structure, fabric and fixtures/fittings of the building and any claims are handled by the Property Dept. Residents are responsible for insuring their personal contents.
Periodic Inspections. Full surveys of all benefice and diocesan properties are carried out by the Property Dept at five yearly intervals for submission to the Houses Committee. A copy of the Periodic Report is made available to the resident clergy. The recommended repair work is carried out as soon as practicable under diocesan supervision and, if approved by the Committee, improvement work (e.g. new kitchen or bathroom) is placed into the Clergy Housing Improvement Programme (CHIP) to be carried out on a priority basis as and when funding allows.
Interim Inspections and Repairs.
In addition to the full periodic inspection, a property will be inspected after it is vacated and sometimes also before it is to be occupied to check whether any further work is required. Major improvement works (such as new kitchen or bathroom) are carried out in accordance with the CHIP programme but, where possible priority is given to a vacant property but only if already identified for the work in that year’s programme. When a property is vacated the heating/hot water systems will be drained down unless it is anticipated that it is to be re-occupied (possibly by a tenant). Where the future of the property is uncertain, repairs may be restricted to keeping it wind and watertight only. Other interim repairs are also carried out if this is considered necessary by the Property Dept.
The Committee does not fund any internal redecoration work other than that which is consequential upon major repairs and improvements. However, decorations grants are offered to clergy when they take up residence. The PCC is encouraged to help clergy with internal redecoration and it is expected that at least one room per year is redecorated. Alternatively a PCC should set aside an equivalent sum annually to be used for redecoration whenever appropriate.
Vacant Clergy Houses
Experience over the years has shown that it is rare for a vacancy to be less than 6 months. As a matter of good stewardship, vacant clergy houses are let whenever possible during this period. The co-operation of the outgoing incumbent and PCC is essential if this is to be achieved. The letting policy provides the following advantages:
- A valuable source of income.
- Relieves Churchwardens of many responsibilities (such as weekly inspections and garden maintenance)
- It should prevent vandalism, theft and squatters and will allow full buildings insurance cover to continue.
- It should prevent physical deterioration of the property and consequential loss.
- The property is likely to be cared for during the letting period and handed back in good order. The tenant lodges security deposit as a protection against any damages to the property.
The Property Department will keep the churchwardens and Rural/Area Dean informed of the progress of the letting and there will be close liaison with the Archdeacon concerned.
Before entering into a Tenancy Agreement, the Property Department will liaise with the Archdeacon to the letting, thereby ensuring that a tenancy does not begin at a time when an appointment is on the point of being made.
If a tenant is found, the PCC is advised to remove any of the equipment prior to the letting. With effect from the date the property becomes vacant and until it becomes re-occupied by clergy or tenant, the Archdeacon, the Churchwardens and Rural/Area Dean are legally responsible for the house. The following check list should be observed:
- All services to remain turned off at the mains if drained down by the Property Dept
- The PCC Secretary or Treasurer to arrange for gas/electric accounts to be altered to the name of the PCC
- The grounds to be kept neat and tidy
- Regular (not less than weekly) checks to be made to the property and any problems to be reported ASAP to the Property Dept
- The Property Dept Lettings Officer to notify the Churchwardens of progress with regard to the letting of the property.
- The house must not be used in any way that renders the DBF liable for Council Tax, Water Rates/usage, gas or electricity charges.
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