Church halls have traditionally hosted a variety of groups connected directly with church life, although a wider circle of users has become established in recent years.This is a positive step and church halls should be available for use by the widest cross section of the community. However, parishes need to ensure that the correct hire and leasing agreements are in place when community groups use the church hall. In most cases, the use of the hall will be covered by a standard temporary hire agreement and it is important for all parties to know at the outset what their responsibilities are with such arrangements. The parish (usually as owners and managers of the building) have a duty to ensure that it is in a safe and well maintained condition and that appropriate insurance is in place. The users should expect to have a copy of the hire agreement (which should include all terms & conditions), know who their parish contact is and understand that any use of the church hall is a temporary arrangement, renewable on a regular negotiated basis. They should also have their own public liability insurance. A sample hall letting agreement is available by clicking here.
Often a community council or group may be keen to take on an ailing church hall to preserve it for the community. In these cases, a rent must be charged as the asset has been given to someone else. The market rental of the building will take into account its condition, the expenditure being committed by the tenant and any retained use of the building by the parish.
If a hall is little used, there may be a possibility of letting the building to a third party but reserving some use by the parish. This could generate much needed rental income. Part of the hall could be let separately to a community or commercial organisation. Legal advice should be taken before entering into any such agreement as they typically give much more control over the way the church hall is run and managed by the users. Parishes should discuss any proposed lease agreement with the Property or Legal Department of the Representative Body before entering into any arrangements with users.
The sale of a church hall should not be entered into without first conducting an appraisal of all parish buildings in the area. Some questions to ask are is the hall in too poor a condition to save? Would selling it free up much needed funds to refurbish or adapt other buildings (eg. the church) for community use? Or would closing the hall have a detrimental effect on community life, especially if it is the only building available for local groups to use? A consultation with the local groups should be carried out and the findings from this balanced against repair and running costs and the priorities set by the parish, Ministry Area or Diocese.
Generally, the proceeds of the sale of any church hall vested in the Representative Body or a Diocesan Trust will be available for charitable church purposes within the Parish. Sometimes, there may be restrictions over the use of funds from church halls generated by hire or lease agreements or sales. These will depend on the terms of the trust or any covenants attached to the land on which the hall sits. The Representative Body’s Legal Department will be able to advise.