Within the Diocese of Chester it is the overall aim to provide each incumbent with a suitable house which is comfortable, appropriate, economical and fit for its purpose, both as a place of work and as a home for a family. The extent to which this aim can be achieved in any particular set of circumstances depends on a wide range of factors, including the availability of finance. There are over 230 parsonage houses within Chester Diocese and the Housing Department at Church House in Daresbury is responsible for the day-to-day management of these houses. Under the Repair of Benefice Buildings Measure 1972, Chester Diocesan Board of Finance is designated as the Parsonages Board for the Diocese of Chester. The functions of the Board are delegated to the Houses & Glebe Sub-Committee (H&GSC) which meets monthly (except August) and comprises:
- The Archdeacon of Chester (Chair)
- The Archdeacon of Macclesfield
- The Diocesan Secretary
- The Property Manager
The aim of the Housing Department is to provide clergy and their families with accommodation and to assist them with the management of their homes. This aim is fulfilled by:
- providing suitable homes
- carrying out repairs and maintenance
- working with clergy and PCCs to ensure properties are cared for responsibly
All of the above have to be carried out within the confines of the Housing Budget.
The Housing Guide has been compiled to help occupants of parsonage houses and their families with the management of their home. It explains how our houses are maintained, who is responsible for what, and when. The responsibility for maintaining a property is shared between the Diocese, the occupant and the parish and this guide will help occupants and churchwardens ascertain how these responsibilities are to be met. Repairs and minor improvements are carried out from the annual Housing Budget and it must be appreciated that this fund is limited, meaning it is not always possible to carry out non-essential work. The Housing Budget is funded mainly from parish share across the Diocese and it is the aim of the H&GSC to ensure this money is spent prudently and that all clergy are treated equally when considering requests for work to be carried out.
In order to maintain and improve the current housing, the Housing Department carries out the following procedures:
Quinquennial Inspection - This inspection is carried out at five yearly intervals by a qualified Surveyor, by prior arrangement with the occupier, and it helps ascertain the maintenance works required to each individual property to prevent degradation or deterioration to the fabric of the building and its surroundings. A list of planned repairs / maintenance work is produced which is shared with the occupier so any necessary amendments can be made. When a house has been occupied for 10 years, the apppropriate Archdeacon may also inspect the property. This is to ensure that the quality of housing does not deteriorate during a long incumbency, leading to more substantial and costly work being carried out when the house eventually becomes vacant.
Interim Repairs - These repairs are not usually planned and occur as a result of an unexpected problem arising e.g. slates being blown off a roof in high winds. Any such repairs should be reported to the Housing Department as soon as possible so that the extent of the repair required can be established and a contractor can be instructed. Work may require immediate action or be deferred to a later date, such as the next quinquennial inspection. Interim repairs usually fall into one of three categories requiring different levels of response - see below.
Vacancy Inspection - This is carried out when a house becomes vacant at the start of a parish vacancy. It may be possible to take a general view prior to the inspection, when notified of a likely vacancy, as to whether replacement is desirable and possible. The inspection is carried out by the Diocesan Property Manager and appropriate Archdeacon, and the Rural Dean and churchwardens may also be invited to attend . The aim of the site visit is to identify all essential repairs. A Vacancy Report will be prepared, identifying the necessary repairs and improvements, together with details of the likely cost. Where large expenditure may be required, the Report will include full details and proposals for rectification in the most cost effective way, in the form of a prioritised plan.
Sources of Funding
There are three sources of funds for the financing of all work to clergy houses:
The Housing Budget: the major part of this arises from contributions by PCCs to the parish share. Estimates are prepared and resources allocated from this source for repairs, maintenance and minor improvements of clergy housing.
The Stipends Capital Account: this is a restricted fund arising from the sale of glebe property and, under normal circumstances, houses purchased from this fund remain glebe property rather than benefice property. The capital may be used for the provision of parochial clergy housing in team parishes.
The Pastoral Account: this account derives additional capital from the sale of redundant churches and parsonage houses. The capital is available for a wide variety of uses but is subject to considerable demand. It is the usual source of money for significant improvements to parsonage houses, the purchase of extra houses and the provision of bridging finance for benefice property when replacement is required.
Housing repairs criteria
The following list is to act as a guide in understanding how repairs are classified and how long they may be expected to take:-
High Priority -
To be completed within 24 hours or where this is not possible, a temporary repair is to be carried out:
- Total loss of electrical power
- Loss of power or lighting circuits
- Water leaking from a pipe, tank or cistern
- Total loss of water supply
- Total loss of central heating and / or hot water during the winter months
- Blocked drain or WC (where there is only one toilet in the house)
- Defective windows or doors that affect the security of the property
- Blocked flue
- Collapsed ceiling or ceiling in a dangerous condition
- Leaking roof
- Fallen trees or branches that may cause a hazard to occupants or the general public
- Inoperative external door locks
Medium Priority -
To be completed in 5 working days, where possible:
- Partial loss of lighting or power
- Partial loss of the water supply
- Taps that cannot be turned
- Blocked WC (where there is more than one WC in the house)
- Repairs to security alarm or lighting
- Minor work on internal plumbing
- Slipped or missing roof tiles, leaking gutters
- Broken windows (where there is low risk to security)
- Repairs to fencing and gates (where there is low risk to security)
- Fallen trees where there is no immediate danger
- Minor storm damage
Low Priority -
To be completed within one month, where possible:
- Repairs to wall and ceiling plaster
- Repairs to fire surrounds and hearths
- Replacement of defective sanitaryware
- Roof defects and repairs to chimneys
- Cracked glazing
- Defective flooring
- Repairs to garage doors (unless garage out of use because of defect)
- Fencing and gate repairs (other than those classed as medium priority)
- Roof repairs (other than those classed as medium priority)
- Repair or cleaning of rainwater goods
- Joinery repairs
- Repairs to paths / drives