property Inspection

Parishes need to undertake a survey of their buildings every five years, these are known as 'Quinquennial Inspections'. The reports that result from these inspections are a key tool in enabling parishes to plan their budgets and undertake any fundraising, so that maintenance issues will be manageable.

It is intended that Quinquennial Inspections should reduce long-term expenditure on buildings' maintenance, ensuring that necessary repairs can be undertaken in good time before there are major or adverse consequences. An inspection and report is required in the fifth anniversary of the previous report; the requirement to undertake the survey is a task for every parish and can be found in SafetyToolbox which provides a useful a reminder when the undertaking is due. The subsequent report should be uploaded to your parish's SafetyToolbox account.

Quinquennial Inspections

These inspections cover all visible and accessible areas of the fabric of all the buildings owned by the parish. The survey report should conclude with a summary of recommendations of work to be carried out, as well as the urgency with which these must be planned. These works must be costed (exc. VAT and fees) and classified in the following way:

A – urgent/health and safety: to be undertaken immediately
B – to be undertaken within 12 months of the survey date
C – to be undertaken within 5 years
D – desirable in due course

Appointment of Architect or Building Surveyor to undertake the Quinquennial

The work of inspecting and looking after churches and other parish buildings is specialised involving many aspects of professional knowledge. The parish should appoint an architect or building surveyor with experience in such work. Visit the RICS website and select “building surveyors” for your area. The Diocesan Property Team can also supply a list of suitable professionals if requiredthey can be contacted by email or T: 01293 651145.

Each surveyor should work closely with the parish and build up a relationship with it, so that there can be a continuity in the care of the property. The appointment is personal to the individual.

The parish should trust him/her to recommend only what is necessary or beneficial; the parish should carry out the recommendations in a proper manner. The professional should be invited to attend a meeting of the Parish Finance Committee after submitting the Inspection Report. Some professionals include the fee for attending a Parish Finance Committee meeting in the charge for the Quinquennial Inspection; others will charge a fee for their attendance.

The surveyor should be paid by the parish on a time basis in accordance with their professional association guidelines. The fees should be based on the minimum hourly charge for the time taken to carry out the survey and write the report. A quotation should be obtained in advance. As a guide, the time taken for the inspection and report should be:

A – Small churches: 3 to 7 hours
B – Average size churches: 5 to 10 hours
C – Large or complex churches: 8 to 15 hours

Additional time may be involved for the inspection of the presbytery, hall or other buildings. In addition, travelling costs and VAT may have to be paid. The fees for any other work undertaken by the surveyor should be negotiated separately. More time has to be allowed for a first inspection by a newly appointed surveyor.

Parish inventory

It is good practice for all parishes to keep an inventory with photographs of all moveable items belonging to the church. These should be valued and revised annually. The Parish Finance Committee should include a person with the relevant expertise to assist the parish priest with building maintenance, and in liaising with the surveyor and any builders used. The parish inventory spreadsheet template can be found here:

Preparing for Inspection

The surveyor should consult with the parish on the following matters before his/her arrival:

Ladders – If a ladder is provided to the surveyor this should be inspected prior to use. The portable ladder inspection list in SafetyToolbox can be used for this purpose and should be signed by the surveyor.

Keys - All places normally kept locked should be open for the inspection.

Premises Inspection Checklist Records – From SafetyToolbox

Leakages – Notes should be made of any recent leaks that have occurred, or any other defects which need to be investigated more thoroughly.

Bells –- Where there are bells, these should be rung down.

Proposed Works – The surveyor should be informed of any alterations being contemplated to the fabric or fittings, as these may affect the recommended priorities in the report. (Any structural alterations, or major repairs, will, of course, need to be approved in the normal manner through the Diocesan Finance Committee).

The surveyor will welcome a short discussion with the parish priest and/or the appointed member of the Parish Finance Committee. Thereafter, the surveyor should be left to get on with the inspection.

Inspection Report

This should be a general report on the church and its furnishings concentrating in particular on its state of maintenance and repair.  
It should be written as far as possible in non-technical language, so that the parish priest and members of the Parish Finance Committee can understand what work needs to be done to keep the building in good order. In most cases, the report will include a list of works that should be done within the next five years, arranged in order of priority with an indication of cost. The Quinquennial Inspection is not intended to be a full survey which would be expensive for the parish, and demanding a great deal of time. It is also thought to be unnecessary as the Inspection is carried out every five years. It should not be a perfunctory list of problems and remedies. Rather it should aim to give a rounded 'portrait' of the church and its contents.
The Quinquennial Inspection report is not a specification – that is to say, it is not a document written by the professional and addressed to a builder or other contractor, telling him what work is to be done and how s/he should do it.

On receipt of the Quinquennial Inspection report the parish may wish to begin planning maintenance projects. Support and guidance for these is found on the Property Projects page.

Useful Resources