Homelessness charity appeals against Charity Commission inquiry

The Augustine Housing Trust has lodged an appeal at the charity tribunal over its liability to pay business rates on commercial premises

The Augustine Housing Trust operates as Storefair
The Augustine Housing Trust operates as Storefair

A charity that provides storage facilities has lodged an appeal at the charity tribunal after the Charity Commission opened a statutory inquiry into its business rates relief arrangements.

The regulator said it initially raised concerns with the trustees of Augustine Housing Trust, which operates as Storefair, over its use of commercial premises and its liability to pay business rates on these. The commission said AHT failed to respond to its concerns, did not produce independently examined accounts as it was legally obliged to do, and did not comply with an order from the commission to provide relevant documents and information. A statutory inquiry was opened on 12 March 2014.

The charity lodged an appeal against the opening of the inquiry last week. The commission has until the middle of next month to respond.

The charity gives assistance and offers storage to homeless people or those in danger of homelessness, as well as working with charities, other not-for-profit organisations and local councils. Its income for the year to 31 July 2011 was £22,942, during which time it had expenditure of £10. Its annual accounts for 2012 are just under a year overdue.

The commission said in a statement: "The purpose of the inquiry is to examine regulatory concerns including whether the charity trustees have properly discharged their duties in furtherance of the charity’s purposes when making decisions to enter agreements related to the occupation of commercial premises, and to ensure that they comply with their legal obligations in relation to the filing of accounts and annual returns."

Augustine Housing Trust did not respond to requests for a comment by publication deadline.

This is the third time in the past two months that a charity has appealed against the opening of a statutory inquiry. Earlier this month, the Muslim aid charity Al-Fatiha Global contested the commission’s decision to open an inquiry and the London-based Ethiopian church Orthodox Tewahedo Church St Mary of Debre Tsion did the same in April. The inquiry into the church was subsequently dropped.

The commission also has ongoing inquiries into three other charities in connection with their business-rates relief arrangement. The inquiry into Kenya Aid Programme was opened in April 2012 , the month before another opened into the Public Safety Charitable Trust – although the charity itself has since been wound up by the High Court. The third inquiry was opened last July into Africa Relief Trust.

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