Under the Repair of Benefice Buildings Measure 1972, parsonage boards have an obligation to have a survey of each parsonage undertaken by the diocesan surveyor at five-yearly intervals and to execute the repairs recommended in the surveyor’s report. This obligation is modified in two ways: the Board may vary the schedule of works, or, in certain circumstances, do none, or part of them only. Elaborate procedures for appeal by the incumbent are laid down, and details may be obtained from the Director of Glebe and Buildings.
The Board is also permitted to undertake interim repairs when they become necessary between the quinquennial surveys. In practice, as the incumbent is relieved of liability for repairs by the measure, the Board normally accepts responsibility for interim repairs also.
The incumbent has a duty to take proper care of the parsonage. This amounts to a responsibility;
(a) to report defects when they arise,
(b) not to damage the house, and
(c) not to alter it without prior approval of the Board.
In order to control demands on diocesan funds, which are required pre-eminently for clergy stipends, the Buildings Committee is required to contain expenditure within the annual budget approved by the Diocesan Synod. It is therefore essential that no repairs should be put in hand without the prior approval and authorisation of the Director of Glebe and Buildings. Staff of the Buildings Committee have instructions not to certify interim accounts for work not approved in advance. Only in cases of emergency may this rule be relaxed, and then the Director of Glebe and Buildings should be informed by telephone as soon as possible.
The Board’s long-term policy is to replace parsonage houses that are expensive to repair or for incumbents to live in, and incumbents interested in exploring the possibility of replacing their parsonage house should get in touch with the Director of Glebe and Buildings.
Internal decorations are excluded from the definition of repairs under the measure, and cannot be charged to Buildings Committee funds. They are the liability of the occupier, but grants are made available at the time of the quinquennial survey.
In the event of an emergency out of normal office hours, concerning
1. Central heating and major plumbing defects (e.g. flooding): Contact Uniheat (Oxford) Limited
Tel: 07802 900153
2. Electrics (e.g. loss of power to property after checking with local supplier): Contact G A Electrical
Tel: 01491 835875
3. Blocked drains: Contact OPC Drain Services on 01235 835 999. If the drains are shared with your neighbour and you have checked with you neighbour that they are experiencing the same problem then contact the local water authority as they are responsible for clearing blockages in shared foul drains. Their contact details will be on their website.
At the earliest opportunity please inform the Glebe and Buildings Department of actions taken and any cost incurred will be reimbursed on production of receipts.
Requests for major improvements where a parsonage house is substandard may be submitted to the Director of Glebe and Buildings for consideration by the Buildings Committee.
Sales, purchases and building of parsonage houses
The sale of a parsonage house, or the provision of a new parsonage house by purchase or building, must be initiated by the incumbent (or by the bishop of the diocese during a vacancy), and requires the consent of the Buildings Committee and the Church Commissioners. In addition, both the patrons and the PCC must be notified of an intention to sell, purchase or build, and unless they express formal agreement to the proposal, have the opportunity to make representation to the Commissioners. These procedures greatly hamper quick action, and it is essential for incumbents contemplating any such transaction to consult the Director of Glebe and Buildings at the earliest stage.
The proceeds of the sale of a parsonage may, with the consent of the Church Commissioners, be applied initially to the purchase or building of a new parsonage house and to any necessary in-going works to the new house.
Team vicars’ houses are treated as parsonage houses, as far as the occupier is concerned. They qualify for the same benefits in relation to repairs and grants.
Leases of benefice property
The right of an incumbent, or sequestrators, to lease the whole or part of a parsonage or its grounds is restricted in many ways by ecclesiastical law. Recent parliamentary legislation also greatly affects leases of benefice land. Incumbents should consult the Director of Glebe and Buildings in all cases where they intend to propose a lease of benefice property.
Council tax and water rates
These will be paid by the Buildings Committee in respect of: parsonage houses and team vicarages. In other cases, the person or persons owning or renting the house, whether PCC, private individual or individuals, will be responsible for the payments. In the case of rental, this will be clearly set out in the tenancy agreement.