6 tips for renting your charity's first premises
Renting your charity's first premises is an exciting and important time for your organisation - but before you make the leap, there are a few factors you need to consider.
There are risks that come with renting a property, so ensuring your charity does all it can to minimise these can mean the difference between sinking and swimming.
Make sure the property is suitable
Is there enough space for the next 12 months? Is there ample parking if most of your volunteers drive? Is it accessible for wheelchair users? Think about suitability before you enter into any rental agreement; it's important to find the right property for the medium term, rather than discover a few months down the line the one you've chosen doesn't match your needs.
Don't rush into anything before doing your homework. Compare the rental price to similar properties on the area to make sure you will be paying a fair price. If your charity doesn't need to be centrally based, ask the agent if they have any properties further afield that might attract lower rent.
Keep things affordable
It's important to be realistic. Can your organisation afford the outgoing of a rental payment every month? And if it can, is the money best spent on the benefits of a premises, or would it be better spent elsewhere? Make sure you do the maths and work out whether it is the best move for the charity.
Don't assume that discretionary rates will continue indefinitely. Although approximately eight in ten charities enjoy such rates, they are reviewed annually and could always decrease; make sure you prepare for the worst. Similarly, you will need to take into account rent reviews - do you know when your rent reviews are scheduled for and when your lease term ends? If you are paying a very low rent, you will need to question whether your organisation would be able to remain at the building if the rent was raised. If you're able to stay on good terms with your landlord, and communicate fairly regularly, it should mean any nasty surprises are avoided.
Consider the implications of sub-letting
If you are thinking of sub-letting spare meeting rooms, parking spaces or storage areas to other businesses or organisations in order to diversify your charity's income streams, this could have legal and insurance implications. It's vital that you speak to your solicitor and insurance broker/insurer if you are thinking of going down this route in order to make sure you are properly covered.
Speak to your insurer
You will need to make sure that your premises has the appropriate insurance. For example, are you responsible for arranging buildings insurance, or is this covered by your landlord? (your lease agreement should clarify this)
Also consider taking out contents insurance; this will protect items such as computers and equipment you use as part of the charity's activities.
Your charity will also need to consider a range of liability insurance; this covers against situations such as allegations of injury to a third party (public liability insurance) and allegations of inadequate services or advice (professional indemnity insurance).
Finally, it's important to notify your insurance broker or insurer if you have moved premises - not only so they know how to contact you, but your charity's move could have an impact on the terms and conditions of your insurance.
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