Clergy Houses And Vacancies
A Guide For Churchwardens
Once a clergy person announces they are leaving the benefice the Estates Secretary will get in touch with the churchwardens. The churchwardens and Estates Secretary share responsibility for a rectory, vicarage or curate house during a vacancy and there are some formal requirements placed upon churchwardens. It will be important therefore to meet as soon as possible after the house is vacated, but the following are the most important considerations:
The house will be covered for up to two years against malicious damage, theft or attempted theft, accidental breakage of glass or sanitary ware (all up to £2,500 excluding £500 excess); and against escape of water or oil and freezing of water (both up to £5,000 excluding £500 excess). There will also be cover against major disasters like fire. All the above cover is dependent on the following conditions being stringently adhered to:
- All locks, bolts and other protective devices must be put into operation.
- A minimum of twice weekly internal and external inspections of the house must be made by a responsible person. (Please make a written record of the date and time of the visits.)
- In respect of cover for the escape of water or oil and the freezing of water, the water supply must be turned off at the mains and the heating system drained down during the months of October to March unless there is an automatic central heating system in constant operation (involving the water supply) which is set at a minimum temperature of 6 degrees centigrade. The loft hatch should also be left open to allow heat from the house to circulate. These measures should help ensure that no damage is caused should there be a sudden very cold spell. Draining down the system tends to make the house very unwelcoming and can lead to deterioration, especially where there are carpets.
Please note that there is no insurance cover during a vacancy for any contents in the house. This means that carpets, curtains, any furniture that may have been left behind and any office equipment belonging to the PCC which may be in the house are completely uninsured unless the PCC chooses to take out an independent insurance. Whilst the house is in occupation, all these items would of course be covered by the clergy person’s own household contents policy.
During a vacancy the churchwardens are legally responsible for the security of the parsonage house or team vicarage. This means visiting the property twice a week when it is empty (I would advise you to keep a log of your visits) and advising the Estates Secretary of any problems with the property.
It is normally advisable to let the property where possible in a vacancy. This ensures the house is occupied and not a target for vandalism or other anti-social behaviour and is kept ticking over.
Utilities and Gardening
The cost of the utilities (gas/oil and electricity) normally met by the clergy person and the cost of gardening, if not carried out by volunteers, will be paid by the Board of Finance whilst the house remains empty. It would be helpful if the utility costs could be met initially by the parish and copies of the bills sent to the Estates Secretary for reimbursement at the end of the vacancy. All utility bills should be put in the name of the PCC.
Telephone and broadband costs are not met by the Board; the payment of water bills is arranged by the Estates Department.
In the winter months it is advisable to leave the heating on – although not at too high a temperature – around 12-15 degrees unless we are in a very cold snap should suffice. See the insurance information above.
Please ensure you collect all keys for the house from the departing clergy person.
The Property Committee will make a grant of up to £1,000 towards the cost of interior decorating which is given to the new incumbent directly. PCCs often decide to assist with the cost of decorating and this should be agreed with the person appointed.