Business rates—empty property

The following Property practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Business rates—empty property
  • Empty properties: rates
  • What counts as occupation and when is property ‘unoccupied’?
  • Multiple ‘unoccupied’ periods—using short lets to trigger a new exemption
  • Change of ownership and initial period exemptions
  • Insolvent owners
  • Discretion to grant further relief
  • Rates mitigation schemes

Business rates—empty property

Coronavirus (COVID-19): the coronavirus pandemic has caused the UK to expedite new insolvency provisions, both of a temporary and permanent nature. For news and guidance as to the implications from a property perspective see: Coronavirus (COVID-19)—implications for property—Property Insolvency.

Empty properties: rates

Business rates are generally payable by the relevant ‘owner’ in relation to unoccupied non-domestic property but there are certain exemptions. The ‘owner’ of a hereditament or land for ratings purposes (and therefore the person liable for business rates) is the person entitled to possession of it. This Practice Note outlines the most common exemptions.

No business rates are payable for empty properties that are:

  1. ’qualifying industrial hereditaments’ that have been unoccupied for less than six months (eg no rates are payable for the first six-month period that a qualifying industrial hereditament is empty)

  2. ’hereditaments’ that are unoccupied for less than three months (eg no rates are payable for the first three-month period that any hereditament is empty)

  3. ‘hereditaments’ where the rateable value of a property is less than the prescribed amount. In England, for financial years beginning on or after 1 April 2017 the prescribed amount is £2,900. In Wales, the prescribed amount is £2,600

  4. listed buildings

'Hereditament' is defined in, section 115(1) of the General Rate Act 1967 (GRA 1967) as:

‘property which is or may become liable to a rate, being a

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