Where two or more people are involved in a group with a common interest or purpose, it can be defined as an unincorporated association. Examples are sports clubs, community groups or educational groups.
A recent case involved a Shropshire Village Hall that had been the centre of the community for over 80 years. The Hall had been properly registered as a charity, and with the benefits of charitable status the trustees were able to apply for a lottery grant. The grant process however meant that the ownership arrangements for the Hall had to be tidied up.
- The Trust Deed had been written in the 1920’s and we suspected that some of its provisions were strange even by the standards of those days.
- The Village Hall Committee had not kept up with the changes in trustees, so now only a few were alive (or known).
- With no obvious succession plan, there could be no one left to pass ownership to a new generation.
How were they resolved?
The Hall was vested in the Official Custodian for Charities and the title was registered at the Land Registry. The Official Custodian acts as a nominee for charitable organisations, so trustees can come and go without the need to record each as a change of ownership. However, the Custodian does not interfere with the day-to-day running management of the property, which is still left in the hands of the charity.
The Charity Commission does helpfully publish constitutions for charities, and a charity formed using one of these simple model constitutions is easily accepted for registration. However, the Charity Commission arrangements did not entirely suit what the committee did or wanted to do. The committee however wished to maintain a degree of public accountability, and were used to holding a public meeting every year.
Our negotiations with the Charity Commission were based on one of their model constitutions which we then adapted to suit the local requirements, drawing on the way the Village hall was run and coupled with extensive experience of constitutional arrangements in other such organisations. At the end of this process the Charity Commission published a Scheme replacing the old trust deed with the new constitution. So now there are arrangements in place in the village for future generations.