Empty property rate relief – Changes ahead?Make Text Bigger
With more and more commercial property sitting empty, an important judgement in Cardiff could have major ramifications for empty property rate relief.
Due to dubious claims of the property being re-occupied for over 6 weeks and vacant again, councils have taken a harder approach. The appeal against Vale of Glamorgan Council could mean each request for relief will be taken on its own merit so to avoid similar court case.
The property rate relief is available for empty business properties for three months after it has become vacant.
In this case the property was unoccupied after being sub-leased, they claimed and were granted relief, but then used the building for storage, thus paying rates again. They subsequently removed their storage and claimed again, only to be rejected on the grounds that it will be used again for storage.
The judge agreed with the claimant that they simply couldn’t find a buyer for the premises and it had only rarely been used for storage.
Andrew Lovett of Stones Solicitors LLP, who led the case, said: “This judgment shows that the true intention of the ratepayer is critical. Each case should be looked at on its own facts and in light of the relevant regulations. This is not a charter for ‘sham’ attempts at establishing occupation (with a view to thereafter claiming empty property rate relief) but instead a decision based on a ratepayer’s genuine and legitimate aim to mitigate its rates liability.”
“By no means all local authorities approach this issue in the same way as Vale of Glamorgan Council has done: but as local authority budgets have come under increasing pressure there has been a growing tendency to do so. We hope that this judgment will restore balance and common sense to the equation.” Added Mr Lovett.
Robin Neill of St John’s Chambers noted that: “This is a shot across the bows of any avaricious council looking to penalise business rate payers by refusing legitimate applications for empty rates relief.”
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