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Rating Talking Heads: February 2022

"Vacant" Property and S65 (5) of the Local Government Finance Act 1988

This event runs as an informal discussion with a small panel of leading and informed practitioners extracting the nuances from the monthly topic. They discuss practical issues that arise, with participants in the meeting being encouraged to listen, join in, ask questions and share comments

Module Duration: 1 hour 2 minutes

Recorded: 10/02/22

Areas covered

Please note there are no slides accompanying this recording.

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions have left thousands of properties, of many different types, either unused or heavily underutilised. Are such properties entitled to be treated as unoccupied for the purposes of empty rate relief? The fact that many still contain material from their previous use might suggest that they are not vacant, but do the provisions of S65 (5) of the 1988 Act, which states that properties should not be treated as occupied by virtue of the presence of “plant, machinery or equipment” that was being used at the property, or is intended to be used, provide assistance to ratepayers? 

How does this provision sit with premises that are unused because of statutory restrictions or government advice? Has the interpretation of this by Billing Authorities changed as a result of the pandemic? 

Whilst there will be an explanation of what the Act says in the discussion, the main focus will be;

  • How do these provisions affect offices where no staff have been attending – can they be treated as unoccupied?
  • Can the position be different between different types of office use – such as serviced offices or co-working locations?
  • What about other classes of property that have not been subject to rates relief?
  • Have Billing Authorities changed their interpretation of these provisions, or are they being applied consistently?
  • How does this interact with S44a rate relief for part-vacant properties?
  • What happens where disputes arise as to whether a property is occupied or unoccupied, and how can disputes be resolved?

We will be looking at these, and other, questions from the point of view of ratepayers and practitioners, and also from the point of view of Billing Authorities. 

February's Talking Heads