The Charities Act 2022 introduced a raft of changes to the Charities Act 2011, most of which are due to come into effect in the spring of 2023. The provisions introduced by the Charities Act 2022 will affect charities from a property perspective.
Requirements relating to disposals
Under the existing legislation, when making a ‘disposition’ or ‘disposal’ of land (sale, lease, surrender of lease) charity trustees must satisfy the following requirements:
- obtain and consider a written report on the proposed disposal (containing the information, and dealing with all the matters required by the Charities (Qualified Surveyors' Reports) Regulations 1992 from a fellow or professional associate of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors instructed by the trustees and acting exclusively for the charity,
- advertise the proposed disposal for such period and in such manner as is advised in the surveyor's report (unless the surveyor advises that it would not be in the best interests of the charity to advertise the proposed disposal), and
- decide that they are satisfied, having considered the surveyor's report, that the terms on which the disposal is proposed to be made are the best that can reasonably be obtained for the charity.
It is worth noting that this regime will not apply to leases of less than seven years (where a lighter touch regime applies), disposals to connected persons, where a Charity Commission is required, and various other exemptions.
Greater flexibility for charities to instruct surveyors
Once the new provisions come into force there will be greater flexibility for charities to choose who to instruct when preparing the report on the proposed disposal.
Section 119 of the Charities Act previously only allowed qualified surveyors who were members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to prepare the report. In the new Act, the reference to a ‘qualified surveyor’ will be replaced with ‘designated adviser’.
It appears that further regulations will specify that ‘designated advisers’ will now include fellows of the National Association of Estate Agents and the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers as well as RICS qualified surveyors.
Trustees, officers and employees of the charity, if they meet the above qualifications/professional memberships, will also be able to provide the advice, even if that advice is given in the course of that person’s employment.
Nonetheless, and depending on the complexity of the disposal, our advice will often be to continue to appoint RICS qualified surveyors to prepare the report on a risk management basis. Trustees will have a continuing obligation to select persons reasonably believed to have adequate experience and ability in providing such advice.
Increased flexibility: advertising
Charity trustees will also no longer need to advertise the relevant disposal in the manner advised in the report.
If a designated adviser recommends advertising the disposal, our advice is to follow their instructions – but this will no longer be a strict obligation for the charity trustees.
Increased flexibility: nature of valuation report
At present the report has to contain the information specified by the Charities (Qualified Surveyors' Reports) Regulations 1992.
Those regulations comprise a very detailed set of requirements including measurements of rooms which are challenging to comply with and often not necessary for most transactions.
This wording also suggests that every one of the requirements has to be included for the report to be valid. When the amendments come into force, the requirement will just be that the report 'deals with such matters as prescribed by the regulations'.
It’s anticipated that the regulations themselves will be replaced with new ones which will provide advice concerning:
- what sum to expect (or, if an offer has already been made, whether the offer represents the market value of the land);
- whether (and, if so, how) the value of the land could be enhanced;
- marketing the land (or, if an offer has already been made, any further marketing that would be desirable); and
- anything else which could be done to ensure that the terms of the transaction are the best that can reasonably be obtained for the charity
Together with a self-certification by the adviser that they:
- have the appropriate expertise and experience to provide the advice that is required; and
- do not have any interest that conflicts, or would appear to conflict, with that of the charity.
These should be less time-consuming to comply with than the detailed stipulations in the current regime.
Charity-to-charity disposal exception
Under the existing legislation there are various exceptions to the procedures relating to disposals.
For example, where a charity is disposing of land to another charity for a price that is lower than the ‘best reasonably obtainable’ price and the disposing charity’s trustees have authorised the disposal, the procedures referred to in previous sections won’t apply to the disposal.
This exception allowed charities to avoid the hassle of complying with the disposal requirements when they were disposing of land to another charity at less than best value, provided this furthered their charitable objectives.
The Law Commission was of the view that charities should only be allowed to dispense with the requirements where the disposal was not in any way financially motivated, and that if the transaction had any financial motivation at all (including the kinds of transactions that are defined under the Act as ‘social investments’: disposals that both further the charity’s purposes and achieves a financial return for the charity), the charity would have to comply with the valuation requirements.
Therefore, while under the current regime a charity can dispose to another charity and make some charge (albeit at ‘otherwise than for best price’) for that disposal, without having to jump through the valuation hoops, it now looks as though if a charity is proposing to charge a fellow charity anything at all for a disposal it will need to obtain valuation advice.
At least those valuation requirements themselves will now be easier to comply with.
Employees will no longer be considered a ‘connected person’ to a charity where the disposal is a fixed term lease of one year or less and is intended to be used as the employee’s home, which bypasses the previous requirement to obtain the Commission’s approval.
This exception may be useful to charities who wish to allow employees to live at property held by the charity but where a service occupancy licence may not be appropriate, for example if living on site is not essential to the performance of their job.
In these cases charities will be able to grant an assured shorthold tenancy (for one year or less) in the same way they would let out charity land to unconnected persons living on site.
Other amendments to the Act
The Charity Commission will have new powers to confirm the appointment or election of trustees and vest land in them
There will be a new power under s.184B for the Commission, with the consent of the relevant person, to order that any defect in a person’s appointment or election is to be ignored and a valid election or appointment is to be treated as having been made, together with a power to vest property in that person.
This may be very useful for unincorporated charities, where there are often issues preventing those charities from dealing with their property. For instance, where there is uncertainty as to whether trustees have been validly appointed, or who the trustees of property are, particularly when the Land Registry title has not been updated.
Whether the Commission will actually be willing to use this power however, remains to be seen,
This new power will also not solve another common issue for charities: how to remove uncooperative trustees.
Any corporate charity, not just a CIO, will be a Trust Corporation without the need for a Charity Commission scheme
Under the current regime, where charities hold designated land (i.e. land that must be specifically used to directly fulfil the charity’s objectives) or permanent endowment land (i.e. land that must be retained as capital with only the (e.g. rental) income being spent on the charity’s objectives), that designated land/permanent endowment is technically considered to be held on a separate trust, rather than outright by the charity.
This has presented problems for incorporated charities because, although one of the benefits of incorporation is that the charity gains its own legal personality and can act through its corporate vehicle, rather than via individual trustees, it has also meant that, with respect to the separate trust of the designated land/permanent endowment it was a single trustee of that trust, and for various practical and legal reasons trust property cannot be held by a sole trustee, unless that sole trustee has Trust Corporation status.
Previously the main ways to gain Trust Corporation status were either:
- automatically, by being a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO); or
- by being appointed trustee of those trusts via a Charity Commission Scheme, if you were any other kind of corporate charitable body (e.g. a charitable company limited by guarantee or a royal charter body).
Now (from 31 October 2022) all corporate forms of charity, and not just CIOs, automatically gain Trust Corporation status by being the trustee of a separate charitable trust (including if they were a trustee before 31 October 2022), without the need for a Charity Commission scheme.
The removal of s267-268 of the Charities Act 2011
Another area where CIOs will lose their edge is with respect to transfers of leased property between organisations.
The new changes, once effected, will completely remove s.267-268 of the Charities Act, which allowed charities with any level of assets when transferring those assets to a CIO and following certain prescribed procedures (and provided that they did not hold ‘designated land’ (described above)), to avoid having to seek landlord’s consent to the transfer of their lease as part of that process and therefore to avoid paying their own and the landlord’s associated fees for that consent process.
S.267 has been removed wholesale along with some other provisions on the basis that an increased new right for unincorporated charities to change their trusts compensates for their removal, but the unwelcome side effect is the removal of a useful legislative ambiguity for charities.
The Law Commission was generally of the view that the legislative provisions should not disproportionately interfere with the rights of third parties (i.e. landlords), and have restated other parts of the Act to make clear they will not allow the transfer of a lease without the landlord’s consent.
The Charities Act 2022 makes wide-ranging changes to the Charities Act 2011, which are gradually coming into force, the long term implications of which are not fully apparent.
You may be interested to watch our recent webinar Charities disposing of land - what is going to change? where we discussed some of the Charities Act 2022 changes.
We will soon be holding a seminar with the Ethical Property Foundation to discuss the changes to disposal requirements, so please do keep an eye out for the sign-up form
How we can help
Our specialist charity lawyers can advise you across a range of issues, from setting up a charity, entering into a new lease or contracts, to advising on a merger or campaign. For more information, or to speak with a member of the team, please contact us (020 3826 7510) or complete our online enquiry form.