The Charity's Home

Your charity may simply be renting an office somewhere or the charity may be running a community centre. This section will help your charity to find the necessary help and resources in respect of community buildings.

Country cottage

Please note: if your charity is running a community centre then you really should join — go to their website and you will appreciate just how much help you could get from Advising Communities if your charity was a member.

Also, you might consider joining Locality which is a national network of community led organisations.They support members with expert advice and hands-on-support. To find out more go to   

Taking possession of your home

Many charities occupy  buildings. These may take the form of freehold ownership, long leasehold, a lease, a tenancy agreement, a licence to occupy or a tenancy at will. Voluntary Action Sheffield has an information sheet providing a description of each of these and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Issues are:

  • Risk factors
  • Running costs
  • Planning permission
  • Listed building?
  • Accessibility
  • Parking
  • Safety
  • Managing the premises
  • Health and Safety
  • Hiring out
  • Management Agreements


Find out more about Insurance

Keeping the charity’s home safe

Your charity has a duty of care to all people who enter your building. This duty takes into account: employees; volunteers; contractors; users; trustees. In this respect the following need to be taken into consideration by trustees and delegated staff:

  • A safe working and user environment
  • Regular risk assessments carried out to identify and assess all hazards
  • Action taken to eliminate or reduce hazards
  • A record of all actions taken in respect of the above
  • Provision of training and information for employees and volunteers
  • Health and safety in the charity’s building: Ventilation, Lighting, Heating, Seating, Cleanliness, Equipment and machinery, Storage, Toilets and washing facilities, Food hygiene, Fire safety policy, First aid

Health and safety is fundamental to the management of a community building. Someone from your charity should have delegated responsibility in this matter. Training courses are available from VAL Training. Also, your charity needs to familiarise itself with the website and requirements of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The HSE provide advice and guidance on all issues related to community buildings including free risk assessment guidelines. The HSE also provides guidance on RIDDOR - requirements to report accidents, injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences.

Who can get into your home?

There are people you want to get into your building and there are people you don’t! So, we are looking at two issues here: security for those you don’t want in and accessibility for everyone who you want in!


  • Secure storage of hazardous chemicals and fluids including cleaning materials
  • Secure storage of combustible materials especially near boilers or cookers
  • A record of who is in the building and when they left
  • A system for storage of keys
  • A system for storage of cash
  • Is an alarm system needed?
  • Storage of equipment, especially laptops


The Disability Discrimination Acts 1995 and 2005 make it unlawful to discriminate and require employers and providers of services to make adjustments where necessary and reasonable. Community buildings must comply with the legislation. The key question of course is that of what is reasonable? All reasonable measures should be taken to make the building accessible. The best starting point to establish what is required is for the charity to carry out what is known as an  “access audit”. It may be possible to utilise the services of an officer responsible for access at Leeds City Council if your building is based in Leeds. Also, your charity may wish to involve people with disabilities to be involved in the audit. Some of the possible areas for improvement may include:

  • Level access
  • Lift access
  • Handrails
  • Ramps
  • Doors wide enough for wheelchairs
  • Rooms are wheelchair navigable
  • Moveable furniture
  • Clear acoustics
  • Microphones/PA system
  • Induction loop system
  • Colour contrast
  • Clear and suitable signage
  • Adjustable lighting
  • Accessible kitchen
  • Accessible toilets with accessible hoist
  • Clear emergency evacuation procedures
  • Time out space

This is not a comprehensive list.

More help on accessibility is available at the following websites:

Equality and Human Right Commission

Advising Communities

Centre for Accessible Environments

National Register of Access Consultants

Renting out rooms and hiring space

The very first thing your charity needs to do is to check what you are allowed to do under the terms of any lease or licence to occupy. Your charity should produce a formal rules and hire agreement.  The sort of things that need to be included in a hire agreement are:

  • Details of the hirer
  • Fees, payment methods and any penalties
  • Details of space hired
  • Capacity maximum
  • Purposes for which space may be hired
  • Arrangements relating to food/alcohol
  • Rules:
  1. Age of hirer
  2. Responsibility of hirer for supervision
  3. Compliance with equality
  4. Compliance with performance licences
  5. Compliance with gaming, betting, and lottery law
  6. Safety
  7. Fire and emergency evacuation
  8. First aid facilities
  9. Food hygiene requirements
  10. Insurance
  11. Instructions for reporting accident, faults in equipment, damage to property or equipment
  12. Lost property
  13. Animals
  14. Noise levels
  15. Safeguarding requirements
  16. Behaviour requirements
  17. Car parking
  18. Cancellation rules


Think about all the housekeeping tasks required for keeping a house clean, tidy and safe. It is the same and more for a community building because a community building is also subject to additional laws and regulations. For example, if a person chooses to smoke in their own house then they can make that decision but not so with a community building.  Here are some basic considerations - Consider having a maintenance policy because this could provide your charity with a plan for keeping things up to scratch:

  • The policy will first of all make it clear what the charity is actually responsible for in respect of the building - Does the charity have responsibility for external and external maintenance? Does the charity have responsibility for internal repairs only? Does the charity have no responsibility for repairs?
  • The policy will appoint an individual or a sub committee to be responsible for the maintenance of the building.
  • There will be a budget for maintenance and for replacements.
  • There will be routine inspections carried out and an annual maintenance check with risk assessments. Heating systems and boilers as well as alarm systems and electrics should be serviced annually by a professional.
  • There will be  a system for filing relevant documents.
  • There will be  a file of instructions on the use of equipment.
  • There will be procedures relating to cleaning.
  • All furniture and fittings, including computers, must comply with legislation.
  • Equipment for playgroups and similar activities must comply with the Children’s Act 1989.


Here is a list of possible costs in connection with a building:

  • Rent
  • Business rates: remember that charities are entitled to 80% reduction and may also be able to negotiate the discretionary 20%
  • Disposal of waste
  • Utilities
  • Water and sewage
  • Licences
  • Insurance
  • Cleaning costs
  • A contingency fund for major repairs
  • Annual costs for inspection and servicing of equipment
  • Security costs


Do you have everything in place? Here is a checklist:

The organisation:

  • Legal structure
  • Bank account
  • Policies and procedures
  • Governance
  • Finance
  • Management
  • Action planning and business planning

The building:

  • Legal matters
  • Health and safety including: Risk assessments, Security, Fire and emergency evacuation, First aid, Food hygiene
  • Insurance
  • Rent
  • Business tax
  • Utilities
  • Licences
  • Heating and lighting
  • Cleaning
  • Furniture and equipment including inventory
  • IT
  • Rules
  • Hiring policies and procedures


  • Needs of users
  • Employment policies and procedures
  • Volunteers policies and procedures
  • Safeguarding policies and procedures