Making use of empty retail space—charity shops
Making use of empty retail space—charity shops

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

  • Making use of empty retail space—charity shops
  • Empty rates relief
  • Short-term fix—interim occupier?
  • Long-term solution—let to a charity?
  • Benefits for charities
  • Stamp duty land tax issues on subsequent disposal
  • Empty business rates qualification

Empty rates relief

Empty rates relief is currently only available where premises are unoccupied for a continuous period of less than three months. The full rate then applies. This is a significant burden on owners of vacant commercial property who cannot find tenants. Many properties do not benefit from being below the threshold, below which there is no liability for rates, as the threshold is a rateable value of only £2,900.

Short-term fix—interim occupier?

A period of less than six weeks' occupation is ignored for the purposes of assessing whether the premises are unoccupied continuously for three months. The owner could, therefore, take on a short-term occupier and obtain some income without jeopardising his claim for empty rates relief.

An owner may choose to use a meanwhile use lease (MUL) launched as part of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s 'Meanwhile Project'. It aims to encourage short-term and temporary occupation of empty town centre retail units by non-commercial occupiers. Through providing an industry standard legal instrument, MULs seek to minimise administrative burdens and costs and allow quick possession by occupiers. However, planning permission for change of use may be required. Any use which does not exceed 28 days (subject to certain specific limitations) is classed as temporary and does not usually require planning permission.