Buy, sell or vest land

This section provides short answers to common questions on disposing of charity land, with links to our guidance and to online forms where you need to contact us.


Buying land

Can my charity buy land?
Short answer

Generally yes, most charities can buy land for their own use or for investment purposes.

More detail

The power to buy and hold land is usually set out in a charity’s rules (its governing document). If your rules do not include such a power your charity can rely on what is called “the statutory power”. The statutory power came into being from the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996. There is also a power to acquire land in the Trustee Act 2000.

 

Do we need the Commission’s permission to buy land?

Short answer

Generally, no. We do not provide advice on whether buying land is suitable for your charity to buy.

More detail

You will find our guidance Acquiring Land (CC33) useful in helping you decide. We advise you to consult your own professional advisor when thinking of buying land. The Law Society has provided a method of finding a suitable charity solicitor to discuss your circumstances: http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/choosingandusing/findasolicitor.law

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Selling Land

Can my charity sell land?
Short answer

Trustees of most charities have the ability to sell land. Charities that are also companies are allowed to sell land because of a power in their rules (Memorandum and Articles). Charities that are not companies (unincorporated) can generally rely on the statutory power in the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustee Act 1996. Our guidance Sales, leases, transfers or mortgages: What trustees need to know about disposing of charity land (CC28) explains the Law and what you need to bear in mind.

More detail

Although most trustees can sell their charity’s land without complication there are certain requirements that must be met:

Generally you must be able to comply with the conditions in section 36 of the Charities Act 1993 (as amended), this means:

  • You must take written advice from a qualified surveyor;
  • You must advertise the sale unless the surveyor says otherwise;
  • You must be happy that what you are being offered is the best deal you can get.

Do we need the Commission’s permission to sell land?

Short answer

Generally no, but there are some exceptions.

More detail

If you are selling land to someone who is linked to the Charity (a connected party) then you must have the permission of the Commission. You should start by contacting us to explain what you want to do, using the following form:

If your land is needed to ensure that your charity can meet its objects, for example a Village Hall charity, have a look at your rules (governing document) for the following:

  • If your charity can still meet its objects even though the land is sold or your rules allow you to use the money you obtain from the sale for other purposes then you probably don’t need our permission.
  • In all other cases where you hold land to meet your objects you may need our permission to sell.

More detail of the law and the circumstances described above is contained in our guidance Sales, leases, transfers or mortgages: What trustees need to know about disposing of charity land (CC28) .

We cannot tell you if selling your land is the right thing to do. We advise you to consult your own professional advisor when thinking of selling land. The Law Society have provided a method of finding a suitable charity solicitor to discuss your circumstances: http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/choosingandusing/findasolicitor.law

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Vesting charity land in the Official Custodian for Charities

Why would I want to vest my charity’s land?
Short answer

This is a free service operated by the Commission. It gives trustees peace of mind that the charity’s land is still held for the charity even though they have resigned or been replaced.

More detail

Charity land must be held in someone’s name. Unless your charity is a company or other corporate body, it is not possible simply to register the title in the name of your charity, instead it has to be held in the names of individuals on behalf of the charity. When the trustee body changes this can cause expense as the land may have to be registered in the name of the new trustees.

A simpler, free alternative is for the Official Custodian to hold the title for your charity. The Official Custodian holds only the legal title to your land and has no say in how it is used. More details about what this means for your charity is contained in our publication The Official Custodian for Charities' Land Holding Service (CC13) .

 

Do we need the Commission’s permission?

Short answer

Yes, the Commission must give its permission. We have made this easier for you by providing an online form you can use.

More detail

We cannot tell you if vesting your land in the Official Custodian is the right thing to do. We advise you to consult your own professional advisor when thinking of vesting land. The Law Society have provided a method of finding a suitable charity solicitor to discuss your circumstances: http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/choosingandusing/findasolicitor.law

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