We live in unprecedented times. In this short guide we have set out key issues which we think Charities in New Zealand should be focussed on.
We will update this article as we have further information and expand it more.
We recommend looking at this site for the latest Government announcements on COVID-19. Also, note that there is a specific page for community groups where there is more detail – in particular for eg Churches, regarding gatherings, here.
Government support for Charities
While initially unclear, the government has confirmed that this wage scheme and leave scheme apply to registered charities, non-government organisations, incorporated societies and other entities. These groups can apply if they meet the qualification criteria. We found that this information was the best to refer to but this summary from Deloitte is helpful as well.
Charities Services guidance
Charities Services have published this guide and key points to note are:
• They remain open and will continue to operate to process registrations etc;
• Annual returns can be extended – best email for info is email@example.com;
• Charities Services will not be accessing their post during the shutdown so contact by email;
• They suggest formally postponing AGMs if needed.
We suggest this is a great chance to look back at your purposes and ensure that they are being followed. Why not also check policies and other rules? We also suggest you ask questions as a governing body to ensure that everyone understands the finances and budgets – how will they be affected? Remember, there are obligations as trustees which need to be complied with, for a summary see here. Finally, if you are making important decisions then record them in minutes of meetings. It may be that due to physical distancing you will need to adjust how you have meetings – we use Zoom.
Consider seeing what they say about “Force Majeure” events – things outside of your control – there may be provisions which help to delay provision of services or goods at this time. Is some renegotiation needed around the terms? Price? Timing?
If you have a commercial lease have a look and see if there is an “Emergencies” clause. If you have such a lease it depends what it says – so it is worth checking your agreement with the Landlord. If you have a recent ADLS version Deed of Lease (which is industry standard) then there is a definition of “Emergency” which includes an epidemic. Clause 27.5 then has provision about access to the property in an emergency – see the screen shot – that refers to “a fair proportion of the rent and outgoings shall cease to be payable…” in some circumstances where you are unable to access the premises as a consequence of the emergency. Use that clause as the basis to talk with your Landlord in the coming weeks.
As a side note, if you only ever signed an Agreement to Lease, don’t panic that it doesn’t have that clause, as the Deed of Lease provisions are deemed to be incorporated into the Agreement to Lease as well (if it is an ADLS form) – see clause 4 of the ADLS Agreement to Lease form.
There is a lot out there – but here are some resources:
• For those in Churches, we have created this book – the principles would apply to any charity.
• Philanthropy NZ have issued this helpful summary of things to consider for COVID-19.
• As mentioned above, check out the Charities Services link here and what they refer to.
On March 26 2020, the Government announced more support for community groups. You can find out more here.
This article is not a substitute for legal advice and you should consult your lawyer about your particular situation. Feel free to contact Steven Moe firstname.lastname@example.org or Kris Morrison email@example.com at Parry Field Lawyers.