The Government has recently responded to the Office of the Third Sector’s consultation on proposals to extend the definition of “qualified surveyor” in section 36(4) of the Charities Act 1993 to make it easier for charities to dispose of land. The consultation proposed extending the section 36 definition to include suitably experienced Fellows of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA).

Currently, trustees of charities wanting to dispose of land, or interests in land, must first get a written report from a professional advisor who is a “qualified surveyor”. At present, “qualified surveyors” have to be fellows or professional associates of the RICS and be reasonably believed by the trustees of the relevant charity trustees to have ability in, and experience of, the valuation of land of the kind, and in the area, in question. These requirements are restrictive, as they do not allow trustees to consider the experience and qualifications of the professional advisor in a manner proportionate to the nature and type of the disposal.

The Government’s comments on the consultation concludes that there are grounds to extend the section 36 definition to include Fellows of the NAEA, as this will increase the charity trustees’ choice and ability to match the skills and experience of a “qualified surveyor” to the type of disposal being considered. It also accepts that the legislation regulating disposals of charity land needs to be more proportionate to the nature and type of disposal made by charities.

Therefore, the Government has decided to consider the regulation of disposals of charity land as part of its review of the operation of the Charities Act 2006, which is to begin in 2011. It has also decided that this consultation will inform the 2011 review and that the extension of the section 36 definition will form part of the 2011 review changes.

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