The decision of the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) in Go Outdoors Limited v Laura Lacey (VO) (2019) UKUT 0051 (LC) concerns the valuation of a retail warehouse in Plymouth. The appeal property forms part of a larger building and was occupied by Go Outdoors under a lease from 2011 at a rent of £400,000 per annum, subject to a rent-free period. The Valuation Officer entered the property into the rating list at rateable value £397,500 and the ratepayer appealed against this figure. The Valuation Tribunal for England (VTE) determined an assessment of rateable value £377,500 and the ratepayer appealed against this decision to the Upper Tribunal.
In the Upper Tribunal hearing the ratepayer contended for an assessment of rateable value £300,000 and the Valuation Officer defended the figure determined by the VTE. The issues considered by the Upper Tribunal included: the adjustment of the rent to reflect the rent-free period and to reflect a lease from 2011 (against a valuation date of 2008); the evidence of rents of other retail warehouses in Plymouth; and the evidence of rating assessments of other retail warehouses in Plymouth.
In adjusting the rent to the valuation date for rating, the Tribunal made clear that the evidence of movement of rental values in the locality was to be preferred to market reports, which it considered “too generic to be reliable”. The Tribunal also preferred rental and assessment evidence from close to the appeal property, commenting that the properties further afield were all agreed to be in superior locations.
Having reviewed the evidence, the Tribunal determined an assessment of rateable value £355,000 based upon a value of £85 per square metre. Whilst this determination was based on purely local evidence, the Tribunal’s decision is notable because it returns to the role of the expert witness, which has been the subject of comment in a number of recent Upper Tribunal decisions. In this case the Upper Tribunal was clearly concerned by a late change of opinion from one of the expert witnesses, where that change of view was not made clear to either the Tribunal, or the other party, until during the course of the hearing. The Tribunal commented that, where an expert changes their opinion of value, it is better to lodge a supplementary report setting out that change and the reasons for it.
Rating valuers will not find any startling new insights into valuation matters in this decision, but will be well advised to have regard to the comment from the Tribunal that “The Tribunal does not discourage experts from giving their up to date and honest opinion, and they should not feel that they are pegged to a written report drafted some months before if their view has genuinely changed, or other evidence has come to light.” The decision makes clear that, where this happens, the proper course of action is to lodge a supplementary report.