Property issues are the greatest risk for nearly half of charities surveyed, says report

The Charity Property Matters Survey 2014, by the Ethical Property Foundation, says 45 per cent of respondents see property as their greatest risk, up from 41 per cent in 2012

The report
The report

Nearly half of charities consider property issues the greatest risk to their long-term survival, according to a survey by the charity the Ethical Property Foundation.

The Charity Property Matters Survey 2014 is based on the results of a poll of 282 charities during the spring and summer, hosted on the Charity Commission website.

The EPF found that 45 per cent of respondents thought property was their greatest risk, up from 41 per cent in the previous version of the survey, carried out in 2012.

According to the report, 30 per cent of respondents said finding suitable premises had been a "significant issue" in the past three years, two in five charities had experienced difficulty in obtaining core funding to cover the cost of premises, public sector landlords were increasingly less likely to give charities discounted rates and some charities were not given the opportunity to negotiate suitable terms on a lease.

The survey says that 47 per cent of charities are willing to consider sharing space to reduce costs, but only one in ten are going forward with such plans.

Among the respondents, 44 per cent benefit from a discounted rent. The majority (69 per cent) benefit from discretionary rates relief.

It says that two in five charities have relied on informal advice from friends or contacts, compared with 32 per cent of charities that have paid for commercial property advice and just 11 per cent that have used free professional advice.

In the document, the EPF says charities should make better use of the pro bono or discounted advice available to them from organisations such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the community organisation members body Locality and the EPF itself.

"This survey is a wake-up call to trustees and volunteers," it says. "If trustees do not have the relevant professional expertise to hand, they should seek to receive appropriate advice, training and support."

The report says that the property sector should recognise the scale of the opportunity that the charity sector presents, that local government, as a major landlord to charities, should involve the sector in local strategic planning and that central government should "encourage a better understanding of the connectivity of fiscal and property management in all social investment".

Paula Sussex, chief executive of the Charity Commission, says in the foreword to the report: "Property queries are one of the most common types of enquiries we receive from charities. Property, whilst a great asset, also comes with risks, and charities must be sure to include such considerations in their planning and decision-making."

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