Business rates account for a significant proportion of your costs and in a competitive market minimising these costs is essential.
Anybody can submit an appeal but only professional advice from a qualified rating surveyor will achieve the best possible results and minimise your business rates bill. There are many companies offering to deal with rating appeals but professional advice from qualified rating surveyors is available from members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation (IRRV).
Members of these organisations are professionally trained and qualified and have the knowledge, resources and expertise to conduct a rating appeal. They are also regulated by rules of professional conduct which offer redress to clients and are required to hold professional indemnity insurance.
The RICS, IRRV and the Rating Surveyors Association are increasingly concerned about the so-called ‘cowboy’ rating advisers who have caused considerable controversy and received extensive coverage in the media.
Typically, they cold call upon businesses making misleading and inaccurate comments about the property and rateable value and ‘guarantee’ to secure significant reductions. Many are subject to fraud investigations by The Office of Fair Trading and Trading Standards Officers.
In an attempt to protect ratepayers and to prevent misleading advice being given, a Rating Code of Practice has been adopted by the professional bodies and makes the ratepayer aware of the Terms of Engagement under which they are securing the advice of rating consultants. The code defines the minimum amount of information that should be adopted within the Terms of Engagement.
Bowyer Bryce are members of the RICS and comply with the Code of Practice. We specialise in industrial/warehouse, office and retail property and our qualified professional surveyors have expert knowledge of these markets, supported by an extensive database of transactions. We also have detailed knowledge of landlord & tenant and business rates legislation that is essential for analysing and properly interpreting market transactions to determine the true picture.
We are also registered to provide assistance through the RICS Rating Helpline Service.
The system of business rate appeals has been subject to extensive criticism across the business community with ongoing concerns from ratepayers about out of date Rateable Values and significant delays dealing with appeals. In response, the Government has embarked on a comprehensive review with the aim of producing a more streamlined and efficient system, designed to reduce the vast number of entirely speculative appeals raised each year.
2017 LIST NEW APPEAL PROCESS – “CHECK, CHALLENGE, APPEAL”
Providing advice for the 2017 Business Rates Revaluation will be very different to any previous Rating List and will require a similarly different and modern approach if it is to be navigated successfully. The traditional business rates service offered by the majority of providers will no longer be sufficient, to better explain why this is the case it may help to outline the changes to the appeal process.
The Government, through the Valuation Office Agency, have introduced a new, complex and multi-stage process to challenge 2017 Rating Assessments. It is clearly designed to limit appeals and make the process of checking assessments far more protracted. The stages must be completed sequentially and the process will require the provision of significantly more comparable information from the outset if a full review of the assessment is ever to be achieved. Rigid timescales will apply to responses and any subsequent action.
PRE-CHECK, PROPERTY VERIFICATION STAGE
Unlike any previous rating list the government are introducing an initial administrative stage before even the Check process can begin. This will require the ratepayer to formally register on the Government Gateway, set up a company related account and then formally identify each of their properties in the rating list before inviting their agent to act on their behalf. At this stage the Valuation Office are proposing that each property will need to be identified and the agent invited to act on an individual property by property basis.
STAGE 1 - CHECK
This initial stage is designed to establish that the valuation applied is based on the correct facts. Where the facts are incorrect they will be amended but it is yet unclear as to how disputed matters will be resolved and it is likely that they will form part of the “Challenge” stage. What is interesting however is that even where the material facts are correct a “Check” will still be necessary before any sensible discussion around the values applied can take place. In many instances this stage will become a procedural requirement before a challenge can be mounted. Access to reliable survey and inspection information is critical.
STAGE 2 - CHALLENGE
This stage will require the provision of a detailed valuation, along with comparable and other evidence to support any change in value. The Challenge stage provides an opportunity to discuss the makeup of the valuation and the supporting evidence with the Valuation Officer but there are as yet no clear indications of timing or the scope of the Evidence that will be provided by the Valuation Officer. There is real potential that the VO will only be required to provide details of the evidence that supports their current position rather than all of the evidence available. This makes access to detailed, relevant and accurate comparable information essential. It also suggests that escalating the case to Valuation Tribunal may be the only way of being truly satisfied that the valuation is fair.
STAGE 3 – APPEAL
If the Challenge stage is unsuccessful or it is still unclear as to how the valuation has been supported then there is a right of Appeal to the independent Valuation Tribunal within a fixed timescale. We would expect VT appearances to be limited and appeals only made with your prior knowledge and approval. Fees would be agreed on a case by case basis and follow an assessment of cost versus benefit. Once again much greater evidence will be required at the outset and this can only be done efficiently where accurate and substantial data is available.
We will advise you upon your rateable value and if appropriate follow the Check, Challenge and Appeal process and consider other areas where rate liability may be reduced now and in the future such as reliefs, exemptions, vacant rate allowances and ‘material changes’.
It is possible that your rateable value may not be unreasonable or perhaps too low. The Valuation Office has the power to alter assessments at any time and therefore professional advice from a qualified rating surveyor is essential as an ill-conceived appeal could back-fire and increase your rates bill.
In most cases, we will provide an initial consultation and review without charge or obligation. If we recommend a Check, Challenge and Appeal process our charges are based upon the saving we achieve for you.
All businesses should seek professional advice to ensure that overheads are minimised and any potential savings are maximised.