The Official Custodian for Charities (OC) is a legal entity, created by statute, to hold land on behalf of charities.

Why have land vested in the OC?

Charities which are unincorporated, such as trusts or associations, do not have their own legal identity and cannot hold land or property in their own name. Instead it is usually held by nominated individuals, commonly trustees. These individuals change from time-to-time, sometimes frequently, and new deeds will be required to transfer the land or property to their successor. Vesting the land or property in the OC removes this requirement. This has two main advantages:

  1. There is no requirement for a new deed (or the associated expense) when trustees change; and
  2. There is no risk that land or property will remain vested in people who are no longer involved with the charity, who may have died or are difficult to trace.

Charities that are companies or other corporate entities, such as Charitable Incorporated Organisations, can hold land and property in their own name and, therefore, have no need to vest land in the OC.

What effect does vesting land in the OC have?

The OC does not take part in managing any land vested in it. Where land is vested in the OC the charity trustees keep all the powers and duties of management including the power to dispose subject to any restrictions arising from the charity’s governing document or by statute.

On a disposal the OC must be made a party to any deed  but, except in limited circumstances, does not need to sign or seal the deed. Instead, the deed with be signed in the name of the OC by the charity trustees.

How to vest land in the OC

The title to the land must already be held by the charity before it can be vested in the OC. The OC must not be named in any document or deed acquiring land. Land may be vested in the OC by an order of the court, or more usually by an order of the Charity Commission. You can make an application online. The Charity Commission makes an order at the end of each month for all charities whose land is to be vested in the OC so, unless there is a problem with your charity’s application, the next monthly vesting order will include details of your charity and the land to be vested. You will also receive a copy of the order.

Stephens Scown can help your charity to:

  • undertake a review of your current land holdings
  • ensure they are vested in the current trustees
  • make applications on your behalf to vest land in the OC; and
  • arrange for the relevant Land Registry records to be updated.

If you need assistance with any of these matters please contact us to discuss your requirements.

Tim Walmsley is a senior associate in our real estate team. If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article please contact Tim on 01872 265100 or email realestatetruro@stephens-scown.co.uk.