Factory and warehouse assessed together

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has determined that a factory building and a warehouse building on sites separated by a public highway, but linked by a substantial conveyor bridge form a single hereditament for rating purposes. The Tribunal’s decision applied the geographical test set out by the Supreme Court in Woolway (VO) v Mazars [2015] and concluded that the three elements of property occupied by the ratepayer, the factory, the warehouse, and the conveyor bridge, should realistically be regarded as a single unit of property. The Tribunal’s decision also dealt with the issue of valuation arising from the finding that these elements formed a single hereditament, and applied an end allowance of 7.5% to reflect the split nature of the site. ...Read More

Rates mitigation schemes were “shams”

The High Court has found that licences made in respect of two properties in Cardiff were sham transactions, designed to avoid a liability for empty rates, rather than being made with the intention of being implemented. The Court also found that, in both cases, the landlord of the property concerned was in rateable occupation, and was liable for empty rates, rather than the alleged licencee. The decision in Queen Street Properties Ltd and Another v Cardiff City Council [2022] is the latest in a growing line of cases disputing the effectiveness of different empty rates mitigation strategies. In these latest cases, the company that purported to be the ratepayer was dissolved, but the District Judge, and the High Court on appeal, found that in both cases the landlord company was in rateable occupation. ...Read More

Assessment of retail unit reduced

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has allowed an appeal by the ratepayer of a retail unit in Upper Street, Islington. The Tribunal determined that the Zone A value for the unit should be reduced from £2,100 per square metre to £1,800 per square metre and that a 5% allowance should be made to reflect the irregular shape of the unit. ...Read More

Completion Notices found invalid

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has found that Completion Notices, served by a local authority to deem a property complete for the purposes of charging empty rates, were invalid in circumstances where the completion date set by the notices was before the date of service of the notice. Because the effect of the notice was to create a liability for tax on a counter-factual basis, this required strict compliance with the regulations, rather than simply “substantial compliance”. This decision will be of interest to local authorities, who serve completion notices, and to the owners of ne, unoccupied, buildings, on whom these notices are served. ...Read More

Data centre space held rateable

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has determined an appeal concerning rateable occupation of data halls at a computer centre. The issue in the appeal in Ricketts (VO) v Cyxtera Technology UK Ltd was whether “white space” in the data halls formed part of the hereditament by virtue of being capable of beneficial occupation for its intended purpose. The Tribunal’s determination was that the space did, indeed, form part of the hereditament, but that it must be complete and capable of operation in order to form part of the hereditament. The Tribunal’s decision will be significant for owners and occupiers of new buildings of this type, and for Valuation Officers faced with the task of bringing new buildings into the rating list. ...Read More

Rating assessment of offices reduced on appeal

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has allowed in part an appeal against the rating assessment of offices in Chinatown in central London. The Upper Tribunal’s decision relied heavily upon the evidence of rents paid for other offices in locality, and preferred this to evidence of the assessments of other offices, which the Tribunal considered to be in a different location to the appeal property. ...Read More

Rateable values reinstated following temporary reductions

The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by a ratepayer, and allowed an appeal by a Valuation Officer, in respect of the powers of the Valuation Tribunal for England, and of the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) to order alterations to the rating list for limited periods only. This decision will mean that ratepayers, and their advisors, will have to consider what action they take to protect their position in cases where any adjustment to rateable value ordered by a Tribunal might be for a limited period only. ...Read More

Fitness Centre entitled to charitable rate relief

The Court of Appeal has found that Nuffield Health was entitled to 80% mandatory charitable rate relief in respect of a gym and fitness centre which it operated as a commercial operation. Because Nuffield was a registered charity, and because its occupation of the property was for one of its charitable purposes, it was entitled to the charitable rate relief, notwithstanding that the operation of the property was for commercial purposes. ...Read More

Empty rates mitigation schemes represented “misuse of legal process”

The Supreme Court has found that empty rates mitigation schemes using special purpose vehicles involved a misuse of the legal process which, on the facts of these cases, entitled the billing authorities to claim empty rates from the building owners, rather than from the special purpose vehicle companies. This judgment is another in a now long line of cases regarding empty rates mitigation schemes and will be of significant concern to those seeking to mitigate empty rate liabilities in this way. ...Read More

Empty rates mitigation scheme was legal and effective

The High Court has found that an empty rates mitigation scheme involving intermittent occupation of a building complex that was otherwise vacant was an effective and legal strategy to reduce empty rate liabilities. The decision is the latest in a long line of cases disputing empty rates mitigation schemes, and will be greeted with some relief by owners of empty properties. The judgment also sets out helpful guidance on “occupation” for rating purposes, and a protocol for resolving disputes about rateable occupation. ...Read More