Tackling Empty Property Rates
15th November 2012
At NG we pride ourselves on being able to offer our clients solutions to any commercial property related issues they may have. With vacancy levels at an all time high, especially in secondary offices and high street retail, it is essential we do anything to help our clients reduce their costs.
As a ‘property owner’, you are responsible for paying empty business rates. Whether you are the landlord of an empty property or an existing tenant who has vacated the premises but are unable to find a new occupier, you are still liable to pay business rates.
So what exactly does current legislation set out regarding empty business rates? Prior to 1st April 2011, vacant properties with a rateable value of less than £18,000 were exempt from paying business rates altogether. Since this date, the threshold for a property’s rateable value to become exempt has reduced significantly from £18,000 to £2,600.
This new threshold has led to even more property owners asking the obvious question: “How can we avoid paying them?”
There are a number of methods which can legitimately grant some degree of relief. These methods allow for offices and retail premises to receive three months 100% relief, whilst industrial premises can claim an additional three months at a total of six months 100% relief.
Firstly, granting a temporary occupier a letting for six weeks or more triggers this exemption once the space becomes vacant again.
Or, as an owner of the property, you can lawfully occupy the property for this six week period and claim the relief in the same way. We would highly recommend that you keep the local rating authority informed of the timing of the occupation. The sale of a property to a new owner does not grant any relief to the purchaser unless they occupy the property for period of 6 weeks or more.
Properties which are either Listed Buildings or part Listed are fully exempt from any form of rates.
A recent landmark ruling involved the cash and carry company Makro. The case looked into the period between November 2009 and January 2010 where they stored just 16 pallets of documents in a 140,000 sq ft warehouse in an attempt to tackle paying business rates. It was held that although covering just 0.2% of the building’s floor space, this was sufficient to cover the relief period and saving the firm £117,000 in unpaid rates.
Sarah Townsend’s article on this topic in this month Property Week caught my eye; for more details visit: http://www.propertyweek.com/news/news-by-sector/retail/experts-lambast-perverse-rates-decision/5044551.article
If you have any other issues that we can help you with, then please feel free to contact one of the team on 0115 958 9899.