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Rate relief for properties that are partially occupied

Section 44a of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 provides billing authorities with a discretion to grant relief in circumstances where it appears that part of a property is unoccupied and will remain so for a "short time only".

The council will only consider applications where property is partially occupied and where that partial occupation is for a short term only as required under Section 44a. The facts of each case will also be considered in conjunction with the guidance provided in 2009 by the then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

This guidance sets out criteria which billing authorities may wish to consider in deciding whether to grant rate relief. 

Introduction

The council of the London Borough of Hillingdon can consider granting relief when part of a non-domestic assessment is empty under the provisions of Section 44a of the Local Government Finance Act 1988. The part of the building that is not in use should only be empty for a temporary period only, and any awards under this provision should be the exception, rather than the rule. Any awards will be at the discretion of the council, and will be partly funded by itself, and its local council tax payers.

Application

A written application will be considered, as long as it contains the full details, and is supported by the appropriate proof.  

The application should include the following details:-

a) part of the property that is not in use
b) a (to scale) map of the property clearly defining the areas in use/not in use
c) the dates or approximate dates that the unused area will be empty for
d) the reason for the area being unused (ie practical difficulties of occupation)
e) plans for re-occupation of the whole property and any additional information which will assist the council in making a decision.

With regard to point (d) above, relief can be given where it is not practical to occupy the whole premises. The following non exhaustive list gives examples of reasons that could be taken into account. However, the council will consider each case on its individual merits:-

Part of the property is temporarily unable to be used due to -

a) flood or storm damage
b) fire damage
c) building works
d) phased occupation/vacation of the site (ie difficulty in totally occupying or vacating a large building in a single day)

Relief will not normally be allowed if the unoccupied area is simply surplus to requirements, or if any under occupation is part of the normal operational running of the business.  However, all relevant circumstances will be taken into account when considering each individual application.

Hillingdon may wish to physically inspect the premises to verify the details of your application, prior to a final determination being made. If this is the case, we will discuss the arrangements for the visit with you.

Full rates remain payable pending the outcome of any application for part occupied relief.

Determination

As well as considering the reason why the unoccupied area is not in use, and the practical difficulties of occupying the whole property, the council may have regard to other relevant factors.  These factors may include:-

a) the financial amount of the award (and cost to local taxpayers)
b) the effect of awarding/not awarding the relief (ie local job losses, business unable to relocate into area)

It is for the council to decide how much weight to give to all the factors.

Process

If the Local Authority accepts the application, we will contact the Valuation Office for a formal apportionment of the rateable value of the property. The Valuation Office will issue the Local Authority with a certificate confirming a rateable value for the occupied and unused area of the assessment. This allows the Local Authority to calculate the relief award against the unoccupied portion of the building.

If your application is successful, you will be notified in writing, and a revised bill or refund will be issued. If your application is unsuccessful, you will be notified in writing giving reasons.

Length of relief

Relief may only be given for a temporary period. It is envisaged this would not normally exceed 3 to 6 months; however, the council will take the individual circumstances of each case into account before making a decision. The relief will be limited where properties are only entitled to a time limited exemption; 3 months for commercial properties, and 6 months for industrial.

You may be asked to re-apply for relief, if the relief is required for separate financial years; however, this will be decided on a case by case basis. The council may also contact you to review the circumstances of the property once an award has been agreed (ie to ensure that circumstances have not changed). If circumstances do change (ie either the unused area becomes occupied, or the size of the unused area changes), ratepayers will be required to notify the council immediately. Failure to do so will result in the immediate withdrawal of the relief.

Backdating

Ratepayers are encouraged to submit their applications as soon as the part occupation occurs. This provides the council with an opportunity to inspect the property if it so wishes, and also enables any relief to be applied to the account as soon as is practical. The council appreciates that in some circumstances, a backdated claim cannot be avoided; therefore, any application must be supported with the appropriate proof, and an explanation of why the application was not made at the time. If the council is not satisfied with the level of proof submitted with a backdated application, it reserves the right to refuse the application, although all efforts will be made to first discuss the details of the case with the ratepayer.

Appeals

Although there is no statutory requirement for the council to have a formal appeals process the council has a process by which a ratepayer may appeal against a decision to refuse relief within 21 days of being notified of the decision to refuse relief.

Any appeal must be in writing and should set out the grounds for appeal.

Appeals will be considered by the Cabinet Member for Finance, Property and Business Services whose decision is final.

 

 

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Article utilities:  Bookmark and Share Print Print this page Last updated: 26 Jul 2017 at 13:03