A Win-Win for Landlords and Charities Looking For Premises
Introduction: The Challenge of Empty Commercial Spaces
Empty spaces, whether in the heart of bustling cities or in suburban areas, have long been a concern for landlords, local government and communities alike. Vacant shopfronts, unused buildings and empty retail space contribute to economic blight but also represent missed local opportunities. How to solve the problem? How can commercial landlords and charities look for help? Our guide aims to help both turn a challenging situation into one that feels positive and productive for all sides.
In recent years, a growing trend has emerged that seeks to transform these empty spaces into vibrant hubs of activity through partnerships between landlords and charitable organisations. This innovative approach to charity office space and retail outlets not only benefits the property owners and charities themselves, but also makes a significant positive impact on communities. In this article, we will explore how transforming empty spaces can be a win-win for landlords and charities.
Why Positive Change Matters
Empty spaces can take various forms including vacant commercial properties, unused warehouses and empty offices. While every property represents a unique set of circumstances, several common factors contribute to the problem.
Economic trends can lead to business closures that leave behind vacant shop fronts and commercial spaces. The rise of e-commerce, for example, has affected brick-and-mortar retail and forced traditional retailers to adapt. Property owners may lose tenants unexpectedly meaning they have to fill spaces at short notice over short periods. In some cases, entire neighbourhoods or industrial areas may change, resulting in an exodus of commercial tenants.
However they come about, empty spaces represent lost value to the owner. They can also represent lost opportunities to local communities. Empty, unloved and unused space leads to decay, safety concerns and decreased value. In this context, finding innovative solutions to utilise these spaces has become imperative.
How Landlords and Charities Can Succeed Together
Charitable organisations, including non-profits and community groups, have increasingly recognised the potential of empty spaces to serve their missions. These organisations often seek affordable spaces to run programs, provide services, or host events and pop-up initiatives that benefit the community. As a result, partnerships between landlords and charities have gained momentum, leading to mutually beneficial arrangements.
Benefits for Landlords
Empty properties are never welcomed by landlords. They represent a fall in income and a likely rise in costs. Empty properties still need to be maintained in order to attract future tenants. In some cases, empty properties may need to retain some form of occupation such as security or guardianship to maintain the property in rentable condition. Providing a home for a charity, even if for a short while, can contribute to reducing these costs.
An occupied property is easier to re-let. Countless studies show that an empty property becomes more difficult to rent again. How much better for prospective tenants to see your space in use? Any lease with a charity can be short-term, with a turnover to a new tenant achievable in a matter of days. Why risk any period of non-occupancy at all?
Further good news is the commercial tax benefits that are available through donated office space to non-profit organisations and charities. By occupying otherwise empty commercial premises, a charity can reduce your business rates burden by qualifying for and paying just 20% of the normal empty business rates charge. In the case of a partnership created through ASTOP, a landlord’s overall net business rate saving equates to 50%. It starts from the very first day of our relationship too.
It is also worth mentioning the difference that directly supporting charities in this way can make to an organisation’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts. Donating office space to a non-profit or providing free meeting rooms for charities makes a very real, tangible impact on a business’s community and public engagement performance.
Rent-Free Office Space For Charities
Rent-free space for charities can, and does, prove a lifeline to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Otherwise empty space on local High Streets, for example, can provide easily accessible places for charity end-users be they young, old, disabled or otherwise. Free office space for charities’ administration functions and staff also adds considerable value to their operations.
All in all, if you are in a position to offer free office space to the non-profit sector, you are in a position to make a real difference to communities across the country.
In addition to enjoying the space rent-free, ASTOP makes a charitable contribution equivalent to the charity’s liability for business rates. In this way, the charity has the funds to use premises they could not otherwise afford. Equally, the landlord saves a net of 50% and gains a swift-to-implement, no-notice tenancy. The charity commits to being able to dismantle the operation within days, should the landlord find a new tenant, or if the space is needed back for any reason. Everybody wins.
Ethical Property Management: Boosting Reputation
Ethical property development is likely to gain interest from the press because it stands out. In an industry traditionally viewed as having a negative impact, the term ‘ethical property management’ refers to the practice of building and managing projects in a responsible and sustainable manner. This involves considering the social, economic and environmental impacts of development and taking steps to minimise negative effects.
Ethical property management prioritises the well-being of communities and future generations. It creates spaces that are inclusive and accessible to everyone, considering factors like affordable housing, green infrastructure, and public amenities. They engage in stakeholder consultations, seeking input from local residents and organisations to understand their needs and aspirations.
Ethical property development also involves adhering to ethical business practices, such as fair employment, transparent financial transactions, and responsible marketing. Developers aim to foster long-term relationships with their tenants, building trust and creating mutually beneficial partnerships.
Business Rates Relief: Lowering Financial Burden
By embracing ethical landlord solutions, developers can create spaces that enhance local quality of life, promote social equity and contribute positively to the environment. They can also benefit financially.
The landlord’s net business rate relief on empty properties given to charities equates to 50%. In the case of ASTOP solutions, we make a charitable donation equivalent to the charity or good cause’s liability for business rates too meaning they, in effect, get to enjoy the property tax-free. As funding is normally hard to source, this saving can be incredibly useful for good causes.
Empty property business rates relief is a great tool for both landlords and charities. It frees up valuable money that otherwise would be lost as tax revenue on a building that isn’t being used. Importantly, it is a cost reduction and tax avoidance tool that the UK local government sector actively supports because of the many benefits using buildings brings to communities.
Community Engagement: Strengthening Local Ties
Offering empty buildings to good causes has a positive impact on community empowerment projects, local charity partnerships and environmental sustainability. These are all essential components of building successful communities and fostering positive social change and action. Such initiatives play a significant role in creating a better quality of life for individuals and contributing to the overall well-being of society.
Community empowerment projects support local residents by providing them with the necessary resources to address unique challenges. By providing space, even over the short term, to engage community members in decision-making processes and encourage active participation, landlords can foster a sense of ownership and empowerment.
With donated space, impactful charity partnerships can become instrumental in addressing pressing social issues such as poverty, hunger, education and healthcare. When charities collaborate effectively with communities and other organisations, they can maximise their impact and reach a wider audience.
Environmental sustainability can also be supported by integrating eco-friendly practices into the construction and management of empty buildings and unused infrastructure. This reuse approach reduces carbon emissions, conserves natural resources, and promotes energy efficiency.
By combining community empowerment, impactful charity partnerships, and green property development, landlords can play a key role in creating resilient, sustainable communities where people thrive, social issues are addressed, and the environment is protected.
Benefits for Charities
Affordable Spaces: Fulfilling Missions
Charities looking for offices and retail spaces are often hampered by onerous tenancy requirements. Turning to charity property initiatives such as ASTOP’s solutions means they can cut through the red tape and move into new premises with the minimum of fuss. They can then get on with the job of fulfilling their mission.
The financial reprieve that comes from avoiding high commercial rents means more funds can be directed towards charitable activities. Above and beyond purely financial benefits, the right free office space fosters collaboration and sharing. Donated spaces typically encourage the exchange of ideas, resources and expertise. They can serve as community hubs, promoting a sense of belonging and solidarity to both the charity and their users. Hosting events, workshops, and meetings in the right place is proven to improve the overall social fabric of any community. This is something we have experienced first-hand.
Collaborative Community Spaces: Fostering Connection
Thanks, in large part to landlords sharing unused commercial properties, collaborative community spaces have emerged as invaluable assets for many charities. In our experience, such premises quickly become focal points for social change and community development. These spaces, often shared by multiple charitable organisations, offer a nurturing environment where ideas flourish, collaborations thrive and resources are optimised.
Working side by side, charities taking advantage of free office space, can share knowledge, expertise and best practices. Such exchanges often spark new initiatives and partnerships, amplifying the impact of their collective efforts. Furthermore, the collaborative atmosphere encourages a sense of camaraderie that strengthens a charity or not-for-profit venture’s advocacy and outreach.
Free meeting places for charities also serve as focal points for cultural, social and economic groups. The right office can bridge gaps and enhance social cohesion. This diversity not only enriches the overall community experience but also allows charities to tailor their services more effectively within their locality.
In essence, collaborative community spaces, made possible by free meeting offices for charities, are a fabulous tool that provides charities with shared platforms where resources are shared in an environment of cooperation and inclusivity.
Positive Community Impact: Raising Visibility
Giving good causes property support can make them highly visible in their chosen communities. Retail space on a high street or similar thoroughfare, for example, is likely to create positive community impacts amongst the widest possible audience. Community-focused projects such as drop-in centres, pop-up service provision and similar meet-ups naturally benefit from being easy to access. Places that traditionally have a high profile and, accordingly, significant footfall can play a key role for charities and their users.
Moving into empty retail spaces is often a strong strategic move for charities looking to enhance their visibility and raise awareness of their causes. Passersby are more likely to engage with, and support, a cause they encounter directly. They get to see work done firsthand and, as a result, often directly contribute by purchasing items or making donations. This interactive experience fosters a deeper connection between a good cause and its audience, encouraging more significant and sustained support.
Being present in a physical retail space also lends legitimacy to a charity, reassuring potential donors about the authenticity of the cause. The right premises also mean hosting events, workshops, displaying awareness campaigns and engaging with the local community are all significantly improved.
Landlords Making a Difference
Landlords and agents that work with us include Pearl and Coutts, Debenhams, Barclays Bank, Land Securities, DTZ, BNP, CBRE and Savills. In each case, we have been able to mitigate the impact of closed branches, unused warehouse space and empty offices for them or their clients. We have typically turned bad news into positive PR coverage.
For all the landlords we work with, costs are minimised in two ways. Each property is well-maintained and kept secure by the charity and maximum business rates relief applies. Many of the landlord and charity arrangements we have established over the years are still running, much to the delight of the local council and residents alike.
Charitable Organisations Changing Lives
Good causes we work with include Temporary Use Aid, the reuse charity Furnish, Freecycle and the Global Educational Trust charity. In each case, we partnered them with a landlord who could provide them with appropriate space.
Examples include warehousing space for reused and recycled furniture, a young mothers’ community hub, pop-up retail stands and an easily accessible free bookshop for children.
Many of our partnerships, despite starting as short-term arrangements, become ongoing collaborations ultimately leading to permanent spaces and lasting value for good causes.
Connecting With Charities: Where to Begin
If you’re a landlord, the first step is to talk to us about the type of charity you want to support. You may have a very specific relationship in mind, perhaps, even with a particular charity. You might also give us a broad brief aligned with your organisation’s CSR policy and leave us to find a good match. Either approach is great.
We have a wealth of experience and a huge network of existing connections with the UK charity and non-profit sector.
Legal Considerations: Protecting Your Interests
It is important to understand your legal requirements when it comes to the temporary occupation of an empty or unused property. You can relax about the details, however, because we have a great deal of skill and experience in navigating contracts and leases. Our aim is always to have your property occupied with the minimum of delay and red tape.
This includes drafting precise tenancy agreements that protect both parties, noting the need landlords may have for charities to immediately vacate the property should it be leased. Helping landlords stay updated and avoid legal pitfalls is key to the success of our work.
Navigating Business Rates: Relief and Reductions
The final part of our initial service is to ensure the appropriate business rate reductions are applied to the property during an occupation by a charity or good cause. We consult with local governments to implement arrangements that benefit all parties.
Rather than be seen as tax avoidance, most local authorities champion charity use of otherwise empty and neglected commercial property. As such, we find negotiating the appropriate levels of taxation, and the savings that come with them, relatively straightforward. Because of the unique way we work, the benefits are shared too.
A Brighter Future: The Power of Ethical Property Transformation
By transforming empty properties we can support a brighter future for communities across the country. We already work with some of the leading commercial property organisations and charities on a wide range of initiatives that have made a real difference in how we live.
Whether you’re a business with a network of empty branches or a landlord to a single unused site, we can help you minimise your losses, create positive PR and support good causes in your local area.
Partner with ASTOP: Your Ethical Property Solution Provider
Contact us to discuss how we can help, discuss similar projects or ask any questions you might have. By choosing ASTOP as your partner, you open the door to a myriad of opportunities. We are excited to share the journey with you.