This was an excellent presentation for two reasons. First, I am a Trustee of a charity with owned and leased properties and found the information really helpful. Second, I thought it demonstrated a great way for surveyors to market their services to a niche sector – in this case charities and Not-For-Profits (NFP). It was presented by Roger Annis and David Sayce of the Ethical Property Foundation (EPF)  as part of the National Programme for Property Education  and organised by CVS Richmond  and Kingston Voluntary Action. A summary of: How to write a successful property plan for your charity – presentation by the Ethical Property Foundation (EPF).

Why charities need a property plan

Roger and David presented the results of a survey into 200 respondents in 2020 (the link to participate in the 2022 survey is below):

  • 51% had faced unforeseen maintenance/repair costs
  • 45% can’t find suitable premises
  • 36% had issues with the cost of compliance with Health & Safety and environmental regulations
  • 27% were in dispute with landlords
  • 50% believed property is a significant risk for their charity
  • 42% identified property as a barrier to achieving the charity’s objectives
  • 61% don’t regularly report to Trustees on property matters
  • 46% have no skilled individual with responsibility for property matters

They explained that a property plan enabled charities to understand what properties they have and how this matched with what they need. A plan allows charities to match their liabilities (property costs) with their income (funding). It avoids unwelcome (and potentially expensive) surprises. It enables the Trustees to properly meet their obligations. And it levels the playing field between landlords and charity tenants.

Contents of a property plan for your charity

There was an overview of the different ways in which a property can be occupied by a charity (i.e. ownership, leases, licences etc) and an explanation of break clauses. The speakers explained there was a property plan checklist (and a fictional plan for a charity with two properties) but focused on the following topics:

  • Details of current property portfolio (and liabilities and costs)
  • Fit with current and future/changing work patterns (flexible, remote and staggered)
  • Three-to-five year plan on how the charity may change (and the impact on property requirements)
  • Funding in the short and long term
  • Costs and risk of moving vs. remaining
  • Cash flow of property costs – rent, rates, service charges etc
  • Costed maintenance programme – budget and timeline
  • Key dates (payments, rent review, break clauses etc)
  • Location of key documents
  • Details of landlord and managing agent

The speakers touched on other topics including: risks, FRI (Full Repair & Insurance) leases, dilapidations costs at the end of tenancies, planning permission and energy management/cost savings. They also provided tips on negotiating new leases – particularly in volatile markets such as retail.

The speakers talked about legal requirements for Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) and Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) and the potential fines for non-compliance.

Role of Trustees in property matters

They talked about the role of Trustees in property matters including:

  • Have the necessary property assets to support and carry out the prime purpose of the charity
  • Be sufficiently informed about property assets, risks and liabilities
  • Avoid inappropriate risks
  • Ensure accountability for delegated actions

There were questions (and warnings) about charities becoming landlords, exclusive permissions leases, service charge caps, planning for negotiations, valuations (Building Reinstatement Valuations must be up to date) and licences.

About the Ethical Property Foundation

The Ethical Property Foundation is the UK’s property advice charity for the voluntary sector, offering free advice and training and affordable consultancy across the UK. It has helped over 5,000 organisations to rent, buy or manage their property since 2004. It is the sole referral partner to the Charity Commission and offers a free helpline.

Funders include: Simmons and Simmons, City of London Corporation, Garfield Weston Foundation and The Tudor Trust.

The Ethical Property Foundation 2022 Charity Property Matters survey is available to complete.

The Ethical Property Foundation provides a range of advice notes, checklists and other help in its Resource Hub.  There is also a useful property legal terms jargon buster.