Ownership of Parish property

Under the provisions of the PCC (Powers) Measure 1956, Parochial Church Councils may not own property in their own right: Parish property, such as a Church Hall or a curate’s flat, is held by the London Diocesan Fund as Diocesan Authority (formerly known as the Custodian Trustee) with the PCC having the role of Managing Trustee; taking ‘day to day’ responsibility for the property. In the event of a sale, lease or license of any Parish property, other than a casual hiring, the consent of the Fund must be obtained. Also, any restrictions in any trust deed must be taken into account and the requirements of the 2011 Charities Act met. See the bottom of this page for more information.

Church Halls – Casual Hiring

There is no precise legal definition as to what type of lettings can be classed as casual hiring. However, as a guide these may be individuals or groups who rent a hall or other accommodation for a single occasion only or for one or two periods a week. Some examples of this type of user are:

  • A church-based Under 5s group
  • Fellowship Club
  • Women’s Institute
  • Mothers’ Union
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Birthday parties or Wedding Receptions

NB. In certain circumstances, exclusive use of premises at particular times and on particular days may be interpreted as a tenancy for which a lease should be considered.

Church Halls – Formal Lettings

Any letting other than a casual hiring will require a formal agreement between the Fund, as Diocesan Authority (or Custodian Trustee), and the user. (The PCC may be joined in the agreement as Managing Trustee). Users under this category are individuals or groups who have exclusive use of the premises (or part) and/or use the premises for business purposes. Uniformed Organisations should, also, be included under this category as they will often require exclusive use of storage facilities. Some examples of this type of user are:

  • Nursery Schools
  • Small businesses
  • Worship Fellowship/Faith Groups
  • Theatre Groups
  • Scouts and Guides
  • Martial Arts Clubs

Parishes wishing to

  • grant a lease to a tenant
  • for a term under 7 years
  • for a rent below £30,000 per annum

are encouraged to make use use of a Diocese approved Model Lease. Request a copy and guidance notes from sarah.wall@london.anglican.org

The use of church halls by other churches and Christian groups

A few recent experiences in the diocese have highlighted the need for every PCC to take great care when approached by Christian groups and independent churches wishing to hire church halls for worship, fellowship meetings or bible study.

It is important that we continue to develop good relationships with other churches whilst not giving any foothold to those groups which bring others into disrepute.

Who can use our church halls?

There is no simple rule for deciding who should be allowed to use church halls.

However, one way is to check what networks, if any, these churches relate to, for example membership of the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland (CCBI); the Evangelical Alliance; their own networks or denominational organisations such as Lighthouse, Latin American Pastors Group etc.

Occasionally some groups fall more into the category of NRMs (New Religious Movements) but describe themselves as Christian fellowships or Bible groups, precisely because you will think you know what you are getting.

What is of the utmost importance is that PCCs take time to explore a group’s origin, history and doctrine (particularly regarding the authority of the Pastor). It is also important to enquire if the group was previously meeting somewhere else (if so, contact the relevant Vicar or Pastor) and to make enquiries of colleagues in the deanery as to whether the group is known to them.

Hall hiring agreement

The PCC needs to obtain clarity on the exact use of the space e.g. worship, education, community service etc. It is then vital to ensure that there is a proper hall hiring agreement in place. Download a hiring agreement template here. For further support, contact the Parish Property & Fundraising Team Coordinator, sarah.wall@london.anglican.org


PCCs have a duty of care to advise organisations of their responsibility for the welfare and safety of any children and adults at risk in their care.

Sadly, there have been instances of faith-based abuse of children, some within churches meeting in church halls. This once again highlights the importance of PCCs being vigilant about following the guidelines in Safeguarding in the Diocese of London.

Section 5.5.3 gives a clause suitable for inclusion in hiring agreements with outside groups.

The use of a church

Please note that it is not generally permissible for any other church or group to use the church building without the Bishop’s agreement and a license under faculty. Any PCC wishing to consider another group or church using the church building should have a discussion with the Archdeacon in the first instance.

Occasionally in instances of a genuine ecumenical relationship, a formal sharing agreement may need to be considered under the Sharing of Church Buildings Act 1969.

Charities Act 2011

To comply with this Act, any disposal (sale or letting) must be at full market value unless the charitable objects of the proposed user can be deemed to be parallel with the charitable objects of the parish. Market Value must normally be evidenced by a valuation report from an accredited surveyor – who must certify that the property has been placed on the open market and that the best offer has been obtained under current market conditions.

Landlord and Tenant Act

It is usually recommended that where appropriate lettings are contracted out of the ‘security of tenure’ provisions of this Act. The main purpose of these exclusions is to ensure that a tenant does not obtain a right of occupation when the agreed term of the letting has ended.


The welfare of children and young people is with those responsible for their care. Where external organisations are using church premises, hire arrangements must make it clear and agreed that the organisations are to abide by the PCC’s safeguarding policy. A copy of the policy to be used should be attached to the hire agreement. Hirers should be asked to sign a copy of the parish safeguarding policy, even when the organisation have their own, to acknowledge that this has been seen and will be adhered to.

Please see references to ‘the hire of church premises’ within the diocesan Safeguarding Policy.


The Fund recommends, when considering a formal letting/sale of a Parish property, the PCC always seeks professional advice in order to ensure that the best possible return is achieved – but it should always agree the fee basis with an agent or surveyor before work is undertaken.


A formal lease of license will have to be drawn up by a solicitor and Parishes are advised to ensure that any firm of solicitors appointed is fully conversant with Ecclesiastical and Charity Law. Most parishes prefer to use the Diocesan Solicitors – who have expert knowledge in these fields. Parishes need to ensure that they are aware of the costs of legal fees and how these costs may be minimised by providing the right information in timely fashion. It may be possible to agree that legal costs should be the responsibility of the hirer.

Frequently asked questions

If the PCC regards this use as part of the Parish’s mission, it could be said the charitable objects of the youth project are in line with the charitable objects of the PCC and then, in some circumstances, exemption from the requirements of Charities Act to obtain a market rent is possible

Although the PCC may feel that it should be supporting worthwhile projects, exemption from the requirements of the Charities Act would only apply if it can be demonstrated that the Charity’s objectives are in line with the charitable objectives of the Church. Some Parishes overcome this by charging a full market rent and supporting the work of the Charity by means of a grant, as part of their charitable giving.

Most Parishes are able to maintain good relationships with their tenants and do not experience any difficulty. However, should a future problem occur, then without the benefit of a properly executed agreement, the result can be expensive legal costs when seeking vacant possession of the premises.

Diocesan Contact Details

Diocesan Authority enquiries are co-ordinated by Sarah Wall: sarah.wall@london.anglican.org / 020 3837 5054