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Act 9, 2011 (IX) – Act approving Code of Conduct relating to Quinquennial Buildings Certificates. 24th May 2011.

The General Assembly approve the following Code of Conduct relating to Quinquennial Buildings Certificates and instruct the Board to implement it as soon as possible:

Code of Conduct relating to Quinquennial Buildings Certificates

1. This Code of Conduct is a policy paper of the Home Missions Board setting out how the Board intends to meet its responsibility under Church legislation for Quinquennial Buildings Certificates.

2. The Board’s motivation is that all congregations should exercise a high standard of oversight of the fabric of their buildings.

3. Act XXXI, 1988 states that at each quinquennial visitation a Buildings Certificate has to be prepared by “a qualified person” and a Buildings Return by the Deacons’ Court. Subsequently presbytery “shall transmit a copy of the Buildings Return to the Clerk to the Buildings Committee, with their comments thereon.” The Home Missions Board has inherited the responsibilities of the Buildings Committee.

4. In order to fulfil its function the Board will ask presbyteries to report when a quinquennial visitation is held and to send the Buildings Certificate with the Return and comments.

5. The Board will maintain records including:

5.1 date of all quinquennial visitations;

5.2 confirmation of the receipt of Buildings Return, presbytery comments on the Return and Buildings Certificate;

5.3 statement indicating that documents have been examined and found in order (see 7 below), or action taken to correct deficiencies, giving the name of the person who has checked documents and date.

6. Presbyteries and Deacons’ Courts will be reminded regularly about their responsibilities relative to buildings certificates.

7. The Board will:

7.1 check that a Buildings Return and a Buildings Certificate are prepared at every quinquennial visitation, and that the Presbytery comments on the Return, and that all documents (including comments) are supplied to the Board;

7.2 check that each certificate has sufficient content, including whether work is required and if so that it is listed to facilitate attention;

7.3 examine all papers to ensure that the requirements of Act XXXI, 1988, have been considered appropriately;

7.4 obtain if necessary from each Deacons’ Court confirmation that the Court has seen the Certificate and that urgent work required is subject to a plan;

7.5 if appropriate ask the presbytery to give further consideration to relevant matters;

7.6 monitor all reports to ensure that urgent work is attended to;7.7 identify situations where no action being taken, or able to be taken, obtain more information and work with the courts or finance committees to find a solution.

8. The Board will maintain a list of suitably qualified persons understood to be willing to prepare certificates to the standard required by the Church at restricted cost or on a voluntary basis. Presbyteries will be encouraged to access the list and also to provide information that may lead to the inclusion of additional names.

9. The qualification appropriate for the completion of a Buildings Certificate is not formally defined and is largely a matter of common sense. The ideal is a qualified surveyor or architect who is not directly involved in the congregation and so can carry out a competent survey with a high degree of independence. Not acceptable to the Board is an office-bearer of the congregation who has no building experience. The person has to have experience or qualification appropriate to the size and complexity of the buildings and be able to demonstrate independence, either by virtue of professional training or not being directly associated with the congregation.

10. The Buildings Certificate should cover the following areas:

10.1 whether the building complies with disability access expectations;

10.2 whether the building is in a good state of repair;

10.3 what work is required to bring the building up to a good standard;

10.4 if the needs are considerable, a programme of work sufficient to bring the building up to a good standard;

It is not expected that a survey should involve gaining access to difficult to reach areas but comment on the limitations of a survey should be built in to its wording. If the surveyor considers that further investigation on a particular matter is desirable that should be stated. If professional indemnity is excluded from the work, perhaps because of a restricted fee, this should be stated. This Code should be made available to the surveyor before work commences. The nature of survey work proposed and the financial arrangements (amount of fee and the extent of any restriction, or no fee, and rates of expenses) should be clarified before a visit.

11. The Board’s intention is that the administration of this Code should be undertaken by a person other than the Board Clerk, on a five-year appointment or by the Church Offices. Some of the work is not routine (e.g. 7.7) and would require the involvement of a senior person who had the confidence of those affected. A person appointed by the Board would work under the direction of the Board, with the Clerk to the Board filling the role of line manager. Offices involvement may require a separate paper setting out expectations, relationships, etc.

12. This Code is subject to review and change by the Board.