Who is exempt from payment? Who can appeal against their RV?
If you occupy business space, you generally have to pay business rates, which are based on the rateable value (RV) of the building (or part building) multiplied by the uniform business rate (UBR). There are some instances where you may be exempt from payment, however, or you may be able to reduce your rates by appealing against the RV (but not against the UBR which is fixed on a national level and rises only in line with inflation).
In the short term, the 'empty rates', which are zero for industrial buildings and 50% for offices, may reduce your rateable liability. These rates only apply if the property is totally empty (no good if you occupy any part) or if your building/ business space splits in two for rating purposes (ie two units or 'hereditaments' in rating speak) and you move your entire operations into one unit, leaving the other empty. The hereditaments must be truly separate. It is not enough simply to say that half your offices are empty.
Another opportunity to reduce rates may be at the start of your lease, when your landlord passes rating liability for a building across to you as the occupier/tenant. If you do not move in for, say, three months, you may be able to pay empty rates for all or part of this period. Get professional advice - it may represent a significant sum of money.
Longer term, you may be able to appeal against the level of your building's RV, which is calculated as the rental value of the building as at April 1993. But this is due to change - from April 2000, the RV will be calculated as the rental value of the building as at April 1998. In most cases, it is too late to appeal the 1993 RV levels but, if you do have the right to appeal 1993 or 1998 levels, you also have a limited time in which to do so, so get the skids on and contact a surveying firm to act on your behalf.
James Mitchell is a management surveyor for Milton Park Limited 01235 865555.