Churchwardens Duties during Vacancy

Instructions from the Bishop of Peterborough to Rural Deans and Churchwardens

Sequestrators’ help is requested in taking care of the clergy house while it is vacant, particularly in any period when the house is not occupied. It is diocesan policy to keep vacancies as short as possible and to only let houses if they are not immediately required and, otherwise, to prepare houses as swiftly as possible for occupation by a new incumbent. Parsonage houses are managed by the Property Officer and Assistant Property Officer. The Diocesan Property Officer, based at the Diocesan Office in Peterborough, will advise Churchwardens of any works which are to be carried out to a property whilst it is vacant, and will liaise directly with contractors, providing them with access. 


Please contact the Diocesan Property Officer if any problems arise. The following is a checklist for easy reference:


Council Tax                                                                                              

  • Please forward any correspondence to the Diocesan Office at The Palace, Peterborough PE1 1YB.


  • This should be turned off at the main switch board if it does not need to be connected to operate a burglar alarm.
  • The Diocese will continue to pay standing charges.
  • Any correspondence should be forwarded to the Diocesan Office.


  • If the parish is able to maintain the garden this is much appreciated. If not, the Diocese will arrange to maintain the garden during the vacancy using contract gardeners.


  • This should be turned off at the main inlet.
  • The Diocese will continue to pay standing charges.
  • Any correspondence should be forwarded to the Diocesan Office.


  • Unless it is occupied please ensure the house is checked internally at least once every week and that any correspondence is dealt with.
  • A log of visits should be kept for insurance purposes.


  • The Diocesan policy ceases to cover for vandalism, theft and water damage (through burst pipes) 30 days after the property becomes vacant. Please ensure, therefore, that no one turns the water back on once the system has been drained down. 


  • Notify the Property Officer that the house is empty and who holds keys.
  • One set of keys together with the burglar alarm code should be sent to the Property Officer by the outgoing priest, to allow access. If this has not been done, please provide a set on request.
  • Another set should have been given to one of the Churchwardens, acting on behalf of the sequestrators (or of the Diocese, in the case of non-parsonage houses).
  • Check all window and door locks.
  • If there is an external opening to the cellar which cannot be secured, the internal cellar door must be locked.


  • Please forward any mail, not personal to the previous occupant, to the appropriate person and dispose promptly of all “junk” mail and free newspapers.
  • The telephone should remain connected to ensure the number is retained and any invoices should be forwarded to the Diocesan Office for payment.


  • The Diocesan Houses Committee has the responsibility to maintain parsonages and other clergy houses (excluding any owned by PCCs). Therefore, please notify the Property Officer immediately if the house is in need of repair through storm damage, vandalism etc.
  • Please do not instruct a contractor to carry out any work as the Diocese cannot pay for work carried out without authorisation.
  • Minor repairs/maintenance will be noted in the inspection report when the house is vacated.

Contact number for repairs are as follows:

Diocesan Property Officer          01733 887024

Assistant Property Office           01733 887023

The appropriate Archdeacon (in the case of an emergency outside office hours).


  • Please ensure that no trees are felled, lopped or topped without the consent of the Property Officer. This is both for your protection and because large fines are imposed for unauthorised work to trees which are subject to preservation orders or in conservation areas.


  • If the house is to remain empty, the Property Officer may arrange for a contractor to drain down the system. Please ensure that no-one subsequently turns the water back on as the insurance policy will not cover frozen/burst pipes.
  • The Property Officer will arrange for the system to be checked and refilled when the house is re-occupied.
  • Please forward any correspondence from the water company to the Diocesan Office.

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