Village halls: answers to some common questions

Charity Commission guidance on running a village hall.

Applies to England and Wales

This guidance covers aspects of running a charity that are specific to village halls.

Why is a village hall charitable?

A village hall is a charitable community facility that is available to the public in a particular area for community-related recreational activities.

Village halls are charitable because they are held on trust to be used for purposes set out by the Recreational Charities Act 1958.

For further information see our publication The Recreational Charities Act 1958 (RR4).

Who runs the village hall?

The village hall is usually run by a management committee - being a committee member means that you are a charity trustee.

The committee manages the hall and determines who uses it.

The management committee often includes representatives from organisations that use the hall as well as members elected at the Annual General Meeting.

Our publication Village Halls and Community Centres (RS9) is a helpful resource for village hall committee members.

Who can use a village hall?

Village halls can be used by a variety of groups and organisations on an occasional or regular basis for different activities that will benefit the community. These might include pre-school playgroups, art clubs, sporting groups such as badminton clubs or any other activity that brings people together for recreational purposes.

The hall might also be used occasionally by private or commercial users.

How often can the hall be used by any one group?

The activity usually determines how often any one group will use the hall, for instance, an after-school club may meet each weekday for 2 hours during term-time, whereas a badminton club might meet one evening a week throughout the year.

Depending on the size of the hall, it may be possible for more than one group to be using it at the same time.

The committee decides the time-tabling for the activities in the hall ensuring that it is used to its best advantage for its charitable purposes.

When can the hall be used for private or commercial use?

Use of the hall for private parties or one-off sales of such things as carpets or art works is permitted if the committee is doing this to raise funds for the hall. Private and commercial use needs to be carefully balanced with charitable community activities and should not override them.

The committee should apply common sense in managing situations for private or commercial use. For instance, a private party booked in advance should take precedence over a last-minute request to book the hall for charitable community use.

Can the committee get involved in trading activity to raise funds?

Yes, in certain circumstances.

Management committees of village hall charities can propose the idea of a regular trading activity as a way of raising funds for the village hall; a common example is the running of a bar. This type of trading is known as ‘non-primary purpose trading’ and is allowed only where there is no significant risk involved for the charity such as being liable for possible bar debts. Trading also gives rise to questions about tax liability and VAT.

Fundraising, trading and tax liability are complex issues which are covered in more depth in our online guidance and by advice from HM Revenue and Customs:

Running a bar as a regular activity raises particular issues for charities about managing the hall for the benefit of all users in addition to running of the bar itself. Information about these issues can be found in:

Can parts of the hall be annexed permanently for particular use?

Yes, but not where it would disadvantage other users.

A village hall is a facility for use by the whole community for a variety of purposes. If the hall, or part of it, is given over permanently to a particular purpose then that part of the hall ceases to be available for everyone. Many suggestions arise for using village halls which entail annexing part of the hall; these might include use as an IT facility, village shop or gymnasium.

The committee will need be clear that the area intended to be annexed permanently will not affect those groups that already use the hall. And, that the area will not be needed for other community groups wanting to use the hall for recreational purposes.

A formal agreement would be needed with the group wishing to annex part of the hall. The committee should take professional advice on the terms and conditions for any agreement.

Can the village hall change its charitable purposes to include other activities?

In some circumstances this may be possible.

Where there is potential to use the hall, or parts of it, for purposes which are charitable, but do not fall within the same recreational charitable purposes as the village hall, the committee may wish to consider changing its purposes. An example might be where the village hall adjoins a charitable playing field and wants to share facilities with that charity.

The committee should understand the reasons for the change, to be able to explain them (if necessary) to members, and when applying to the Commission to authorise the change. For example:

  • the reasons for the change
  • how the new charitable use would affect existing use of the hall for community recreational purposes
  • whether the committee has publicly consulted existing users, and the public in the area of benefit, about the change

Changing purposes involves amending the charity’s governing document. The committee members, as trustees, can do this but will need the Commission’s authority before the change becomes effective. Read our guidance about changing governing documents to understand the legal requirements and how to apply for our authority.

The committee should also understand if the village hall is designated land. Designated land is land that must be used for a particular purpose of your charity. If it is, read our guidance about changing the purposes of designated land.

Does the village hall need to be insured?

Yes, because the committee has a general duty to protect the assets of the charity, which includes the village hall itself. It is important, therefore, to have appropriate insurance for both buildings and contents.

The 2 most common ways of insuring are:

  • for market value
  • for the cost of rebuilding

Costs for rebuilding should include:

  • professional fees
  • the costs of compliance with planning and building regulations

Where the charity occupies the village hall under the terms of a lease, it is essential that the committee examines the terms and conditions of the lease to find out who is responsible for the buildings and contents insurance.

The committee should obtain professional advice when considering insurance and should make sure that land and assets are valued regularly so that policies can be updated appropriately.

Who can provide help to village halls?

Organisations that may be of help to village halls include:

Updates to this page

Published 1 October 2010
Last updated 7 March 2024 + show all updates
  1. Guidance updated to reflect changes introduced by the Charities Act 2022.

  2. First published.

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