Care of the house during a vacancy
The house is to be in good order and not left dirty or in urgent need of decoration. All personal possessions are to be removed from the house (including the loft), garden and all outbuildings. The Diocese will not purchase carpets or curtains or reimburse the occupant for any work carried out at his/her own expense. The care of a parsonage house during a vacancy is one of the primary responsibilities of the churchwardens as local sequestrators. The duties with regard to the house are as follows:
Before the house becomes vacant
Discuss with the occupant their removal arrangements, and in particular the disposal of any unwanted possessions and the final cleaning of the house, to ensure it is clean and completely empty.
Notify the Housing Department of the date the house will be empty and agree procedures for the house during the vacancy.
Inform the Local Council of the vacancy date and request a revised council tax notification/exemption.
Inform the Housing Department of the names of the utility service providers, together with customer reference numbers.
On the day of departure
On the day of vacation of the house, ensure the gas and electricity meters are read and that all doors and windows are locked and secure. Please do not lock internal doors and internal keys should be left in place. A set of keys to external doors should be left with one of the Churchwardens.
During the vacancy
If a longer than normal vacancy is envisaged, it may be prudent to let the property on a six month assured shorthold tenancy and if this is the case then arrangements will be made by the Housing Department. The tenancy agreement is signed by the Churchwardens and Rural Dean as sequestrators or the DBF on their behalf. Any rents received will be retained by the Diocese for the housing fund. If the house is let, the wardens should arrange for the Rectory/Vicarage telephone number to be transferred for the period of the vacancy, enabling the telephone number to be retained. Any tenant will then arrange their own telephone number so that any calls relating to the parish reach the correct destination. The outgoing occupant must ensure a final telephone bill is arranged for payment by him/her or the parish.
If it is not possible for the house to be let, the Churchwardens need to consider the following:
- has the outgoing minister arranged for meters to be read prior to departure?
- has the former incumbent arranged for the redirection of post and does Church House know the address to which diocesan mailing should be sent (usually one of the Churchwardens or PCC Secretary)?
- has an answerphone message been recorded to redirect callers to the curate, a churchwarden or other appropriate person? (The telephone line must not be disconnected).
- is the house empty of all contents, securely locked and arrangements made for twice weekly inspections, which is a requirement of the Diocese’s insurance policy?
- has a time switch been left in the house to enable lights to be turned on and off?
- have arrangements been made for basic maintenance of the garden whilst the house is vacant? The Diocese will meet reasonable costs of cutting lawns during the growing season.
- have suitable provisions been made to prevent frost damage during the winter months? If necessary, the Diocese will arrange for the draining down of all plumbing and central heating systems. Otherwise, the heating should be kept on at a low level to ensure pipes do not freeze and the Diocese will reimburse reasonable fuel costs.
The vacancy inspection and work
A vacancy inspection will be arranged, to be attended by the Property Manager and appropriate Archdeacon, and the Rural Dean and Churchwardens are usually invited to attend too. This inspection provides an opportunity to assess the suitability of the house and determine any repairs or improvements that need to be carried out, together with an estimate of the cost of the proposed work. Responsibility for decision making at this stage rests with the Houses & Glebe Sub-Committee, unless referral to the Finance & Scrutiny Committee is required because of any of the following:
- there are unusual, expensive or controversial aspects
- major improvements need to be carried out that require the approval of a budget
- the estimated costs of vacancy work is so high that disposal and/or replacement is considered a better option
Once the vacancy work has been agreed, the Housing Department will arrange for appropriate contractors to carry it out. A full clean of the house may be arranged if work carried out makes it necessary to do so. Once all the work has been completed, it is the responsibility of the parish to carry out any internal decoration arranged with the incoming minister.
When a new incumbent is identified
At this stage the new incumbent and his/her spouse are invited to visit the house together with the Property Manager to identify any further minor works needed and to agree the details of internal decoration with the parish. If the minister wishes to do this, they should telephone or email the Property Manager to arrange an appointment.
When the new incumbent moves in the churchwardens should ensure the new incumbent receives all keys to the house, garage and any outbuildings and knows how to operate the intruder alarm and central heating system. The new incumbent should also be made aware of the location of the stopcock and utility meters.
Every effort will be made to ensure the new incumbent’s move in is as straightforward as possible. Please notify the Local Council of the date the Rectory/Vicarage is re-occupied so that the local authority can issue a revised tax bill. On the day of occupation the meters should be read and arrangements made for the accounts to be put in the name of the new occupant.