Viewpoint - 29/07/2015

When two into one won't go

The Supreme Court (House of Lords in old money) has brought clarity to the issue of two floors of offices (second and sixth) that were occupied by the same company (Mazars) where the Valuation Tribunal England decided on appeal that there should be one rating assessment for both floors. Does this matter? Paul Easton, our National Head of Business Rates, argues it does.

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The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) disagreed with this as it drove a ‘coach and horses’ through previous case law on this subject and had enormous implications for them as occupiers in similar circumstances could seek to merge rating assessments where they were in the same building (or parade) but were not actually adjacent or contiguous.

The VOA appealed to the Upper Chamber and Court of Appeal and lost.  They have, however, succeeded in the Supreme Court, which has ruled that there should be two separate rating assessments.  The Supreme Court decision means the previous understanding prevails.  Separately occupied properties will be separately assessed although there are one or two (different) circumstances where separate properties can be assessed together.

Why is this important? Rating consultants and their clients were eagerly waiting to see if separate assessments could be merged and, if they could, would reductions in the total rateable values be possible because of lower rates being adopted for a bigger occupation and/or allowances to reduce the rating assessment because not adjacent properties were assessed as one.

The VOA will be breathing a sigh of relief.  Had the decision gone the other way they would have been deluged with rating appeals to merge separate rating assessments that could result in a single, possibly lower, rating assessment.

The rating world now awaits with interest the final decision in another very important case Monk v Newbigin, which is all about repair.


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