Parsonages

On this page is a set of guidelines for those occupying and caring for a Parsonage Board house, that is, rectory, vicarage, team vicar’s house, curate’s house, house for duty, archdeaconry, deanery or canon’s house.
It is not an exhaustive list of all the things that you might confront and it is not a legal document; the legal framework under which you occupy the house and how the Parsonage Board operates is described in Chapter VII of the Constitution of The Church In Wales.

1. Introduction

The Parsonage Board aims to provide adequate and comfortable accommodation for the clergy of the Diocese. Sometimes, in the furtherance of this aim, disruption will be caused in the life of clergy and their families, and sometimes, because of financial pressures, it will not be possible to accede to specific requests. On these occasions your patience will be appreciated. The maintenance of parsonage houses is a partnership between the Parsonage Board and the occupants concerned. The Diocesan Inspector will be pleased to advise on any matters relating to the occupation and care of the premises.

2. Duties of the Parsonage Board

Working within available budgets, the Parsonage Board will normally:

  • Maintain and insure the structure and exterior of the building
  • Provide and maintain the installations for space and water heating and sanitation
  • Maintain all fixtures and fittings that are deemed part of the structure of the house
  • Install and maintain smoke and (where appropriate) Carbon Monoxide detectors
  • Ensure that gas appliances are maintained and certified safe on an annual basis
  • Ensure oil appliances are maintained on an annual basis
  • Clear gutters, downpipes, and gullies, annually
  • Arrange for the property to be inspected at least every five years
  • Carry out improvements when appropriate and as funds permit
  • Carry out a survey of the interior condition prior to occupation and vacation of the property; this will include a photographic record, providing a reference point for inspections during and at the end of the occupancy
  • Provision of basic curtain tracks; if the Incumbent replaces these with ornate poles, the original track must be reinstated before the house is vacated.

3. Duties of Clergy

Clergy are responsible for:

  • Anything that belongs to those living in the house
  • Provision of house contents insurance
  • Fuses, light bulbs, lampshades, batteries for doorbells, smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors
  • Provision of telephone equipment, electric fires and TV aerials/satellite dishes (and appropriate licenses). Clergy are responsible for the installation and maintenance of TV and radio aerials and should ensure these conform to local planning regulations (contact your local authority or the Diocesan Inspector for advice). You must seek the written approval of the Parsonage Board before erecting a satellite dish.
  • Maintenance of internal decoration (see below)
  • Maintenance of gardens (see below)
  • Keeping all internal waste pipes and traps clear of debris, hair, etc.
  • Keeping chimneys and flues clean and swept annually and at vacation of house
  • The cost of repairing items damaged due to misuse or neglect
  • Any damage caused by their domestic animals
  • Pest control issues should be initially addressed to your local authority; if they will not provide a service contact the Diocesan Inspector.
  • Cleaning all external glazing

It is not expected that clergy will necessarily carry out all these maintenance items themselves, but may need to employ and pay local contractors accordingly; the clergy/parish representatives must ensure the contractors are competent and have appropriate public liability and employers liability insurances.

Clergy may not make any structural alteration or addition to a parsonage, its outbuildings or to the permanent fittings without the written consent of the Diocesan Parsonage Board.

You are asked to inform the Diocesan Inspector of any problems with the house that might lead to structural damage or expense if left unattended. The Inspector should also be advised of any damage to the structure, fixtures or fittings which could be the subject of an insurance claim.

4. Emergencies – out of hours, weekends and public holidays

When there is a need for urgent repairs, e.g. blocked pipes, roof leaks, broken window panes, blocked drains, etc. you should instruct a local tradesman or public utility to carry out the necessary repairs immediately – check competence and insurances as above. The Diocesan Inspector should be informed at the earliest opportunity (out of hours considered as later than 5pm). In the case of the space or water heating systems, or the alarm system (where applicable), please refer faults to the relevant service contractor, see Appendix 1.

5. Maintenance of internal decorations

The Parsonage Board expects to provide clergy, on their arrival in a new parish/benefice, with a house in good internal decorative order, although not necessarily newly decorated throughout. The condition of the house will be photographed to provide a benchmark for future inspections and clergy are expected to return the house to the Parsonage Board in similar condition. Clergy are required to keep the house in good decorative order, to the satisfaction of the Parsonage Board.

The decoration can be to the occupier’s individual taste but consideration should be given to the next occupier. Most houses will be provided with pastel or neutral shades to walls and it is expected that any stronger colours or specific designs will be removed and the walls returned to pastel or neutral shades before vacating; this will be advised at the Vacancy Inspection. A record of colours and materials used in decorations would be helpful in the ongoing maintenance of the interior. Woodwork and ceilings should not be painted in colours other than white or ivory.

While recognising the desire to display paintings, photographs, etc. and to fix items to walls it is expected that on vacation of the house, the outgoing clergy will remove such fittings, fill holes and make good decorations.

A check will be made at the time of the quinquennial inspection to ensure that decorations are maintained to a good standard. Where decorations are not so maintained, you will be given a reasonable time to undertake the works.

Failure to comply with the above, during occupancy or at vacating, will result in a charge for making good.

6. Dealing with damp

Advise the Diocesan Inspector of any leaking pipes, leaking or overflowing gutters, or other sources of water ingress/signs of internal dampness to enable prompt repair.

Make use of extraction/ventilation equipment at all times and promptly report any faults. Ventilate the house by opening windows as often as possible.

Ensure air bricks and ventilators are kept open and clear; keep furniture, etc. away from internal vents and keep ground levels below external air bricks. The provision of air via ventilators and air bricks in rooms with gas appliances is essential for your own safety.

7. Maintenance of gardens

Clergy are required to undertake general maintenance and upkeep of grounds and gardens, including the trimming of hedges – a maximum height of approx. 2.4 m is suggested to help ease of maintenance and to maintain privacy for the clergy or neighbours – and pruning of shrubs to prevent overgrowth. Lawns should be mown regularly. Hard or gravel surfaces such as paths and drives should be regularly cleared of weeds, and treated with a proprietary weedkiller as required. Fallen dead leaves should be swept up.

Training plants, particularly ivy, up the walls of houses is discouraged and any such growth must be cut back to prevent clogging of gutters and growth into roof spaces.

Do not plant new shrubs or trees within 3.0 m of the house or 1½ times the mature height of the tree/shrub whichever is the smaller.

Substantial/mature trees are the responsibility of the Parsonage Board and any concerns are to be reported to the Diocesan Inspector as soon as they become apparent; no work to trees should be undertaken by clergy.

8. Fixtures and fittings

Any fixtures – including shelving, fitted wardrobes or cupboards, fitted kitchen units, working surfaces, sink units, integral cooking appliances and extractor hoods, bathroom and lavatory fittings, showers and tiling – existing at the date of occupation, or added thereafter by the Parsonage Board, are deemed to belong to the Parsonage Board.  None of these items may be removed or altered without the express permission of the Parsonage Board.

Clergy should always obtain permission of the Parsonage Board to install any fixtures and fittings within a Parsonage Board property.

9. Electrical installation

Make yourself familiar with the location of the main trip switches for your house to enable a rapid response to any emergency.

Electrical installations are inspected regularly to help ensure the health and safety of the occupiers.  Any concerns about the electrical installation, e.g. dimming lights, sparking sockets or switches, faulty sockets or frequent failure of light bulbs, should be reported to the Diocesan Inspector as soon as possible.  Do not make alterations or additions to the electrical installation under any circumstances.

10. Gas and oil fired heating systems and appliances

Make yourself familiar with the location of the emergency shut off valve for the gas supply, usually adjacent to the meter, to enable a rapid response to any emergency.

All gas and oil fired systems are serviced annually and inspected for condition and to help ensure safety.  Details of the current service contractor are provided in Appendix 1.  The contract covers all elements of the heating and hot water systems and gas fires, and the inspection, for safety, of gas cookers, including LPG systems.

Remove air (bleed) radiators only with the pump and boiler turned off, to prevent more air being drawn into the system.

11. Water

Make yourself familiar with the location of the main stop tap to enable a rapid response to any emergency.

Report to the Diocesan Inspector, as soon as they become apparent, any water leaks from pipes, appliances or heating equipment.  Do not make alterations or additions to the water systems.

The application for the installation of water meters will be considered by the Parsonage board on a case by case basis with reference to the R B’s policy document on the installation of water meters in residential property.

12. Septic tanks and cesspits

Septic tanks/cesspits/treatment plants require care in use to ensure they keep working and to prevent blockages, for example:

  • Use only mild detergents and soaps
  • Do not dispose of expandable paper/textile products into the system, e.g. sanitary towels, wipes, cotton buds
  • Do not dispose of cooking oils or fats into the system.
  • Septic tanks and cesspits shall be emptied as needed.

The parish are responsible for water charges, which are reduced in properties with septic tanks and cesspits; parishes should therefore cover the costs of emptying septic tanks and cesspits.

13. Parsonage Security

Security of the house and of its occupants is of great importance to the Parsonage Board and If you have any particular concerns about security of the house and grounds, or about vandalism, please contact the Diocesan Inspector for advice.

14. Business use

No business uses whatsoever, such as sub-letting or bed and breakfast, are to be carried out in the property, including outbuildings.

15. Legal notices

If any legal notice is served on you, concerning the parsonage, such as planning applications on adjacent property, a compulsory purchase order or a proposal from CADW to list the parsonage, you should pass these on, without acknowledgement or reply to the Diocesan Inspector as soon as possible.  Any delay could result in the opportunity being lost to make objection to the proposals, which could, if accepted, seriously affect the amenities and value of the property.  Under ­no circumstances should clergy on their own account respond to the notice.

16. Insurance

The fabric of the building and any fixtures for which they are responsible are insured by the Representative Body (RB).  The Church In Wales’ insurers, the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group plc, provide cover for the RB against any third party claims for which they are legally liable arising from damage or injury sustained whilst a third party is on Parsonage Board premises and whilst the clergy are carrying out “business duties” on behalf of the Church; this includes damage caused by any part of the structure, for example, falling roof tiles or slates.

If any parish possessions are stored or held on Parsonage Board premises, insurance cover must be independently arranged by the parish/benefice.  Clergy are strongly discouraged from storing any flammable materials belonging to the parish, such as fuel for lawn mowers or lawn mowers filled with petrol.

17. Access

Access to Parsonage Board property should be offered to the Parsonage Board’s representatives, and in particular the Diocesan Inspector and contractors at appropriate times in order to inspect and carry out works.  Whenever possible this will be at a time mutually agreed with the parties concerned.  However, if appointments are not observed and costs are incurred in abortive visits, the Parsonage Board reserves the right to pass these charges onto the persons concerned.  In the case of vacant property where works are in progress, visits must be only by appointment with the Diocesan Inspector and contractor.

18. Contractors

The Parsonage Board employs a variety of approved and trusted contractors to carry out works of repair and improvement.  Any comments, or other complaints, are to be directed to the Diocesan Inspector, as soon as issues arise, to help early resolution; issues can include quality, continuity, failure to attend at appointed times, attitude and cleanliness.
Clergy must not, under any circumstances, give direct instructions to contractors, employed by the Parsonage Board.  Any such action resulting in additional cost, not agreed with the Diocesan Inspector, will be charged to the clergy.

The Diocesan Inspector is always willing to add contractors recommended by parishes, particularly those with church connections, to the approved list and invite them to carry out work, provided that it can be shown the contractor is suitably qualified and experienced and can conform to statutory legislation.  Details of experience, capacity and specifically appropriate insurance cover should be submitted to the Diocesan Inspector.  The final choice of contractor remains with the Parsonage Board who must have regard to the cost and the reputation of the contractor as well as to any local connections.

19. Vacating the house

Notify the Diocesan Secretary and Inspector as soon as possible after giving notice to the Bishop that the house will be vacated.  Early notification will enable an Inspection to be carried out by the Diocesan Inspector, providing sufficient time for you to carry out any remedial works that are the responsibility of the clergy and for a follow-up inspection where necessary.  Any damage or deterioration to the property for which you are responsible, other than normal wear and tear, which has not been made good within a given time will result in a charge being made to make good.  Advise the Diocesan Secretary and Inspector of the official moving date as soon as that is known.

Leave the house, including the roof void and outbuildings, clean and empty of rubbish and personal possessions and in a condition suitable to be re-occupied.  Ensure all equipment belonging with the house is clean and in safe working order.

It is your responsibility to arrange for all utilities to be transferred (to the parish c/o the churchwardens, unless otherwise notified by the Parsonage Board) when you leave or move into a new house.  Read all meters and arrange for payment of final bills; do not request the disconnection of services.  Set up redirection of all mail to your new address or cancel unwanted subscriptions.

When a parsonage house is unoccupied during a vacancy, responsibility for the custody of the house passes to the Area Dean and the Churchwardens as described in The Constitution of The Church In Wales, Vol. I, Chapter VII.

See Vacancy Procedure, a quick checklist for clergy and churchwardens, Appendix 2.

20. Complaints

We realise that maintaining an estate having a value of many millions of pounds and spread across the Diocese is a complex matter and occasionally mistakes will be made. If you have a problem with the way work has been carried out or any other difficulty, please let the staff at the Diocesan Office know. It would be helpful if you could identify the name of the contractor responsible and in the first instance, you should contact the Diocesan Inspector. If the situation is not resolved, please contact the Diocesan Secretary. Final recourse can be made to the Chairman of the Diocesan Parsonage Board, whose name and address can be found in the Diocesan Yearbook.