Managing Business Rates during the COVID-19 Pandemic

“I hope our video has offered guidance and support on the steps you should consider to help reduce your business rates during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

– Alan Weston BSc MRICS

Board Director

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    Consider Making a Void Claim

    Complete the form above if your Business CLOSED (partially or in full) from some or any of its trading location(s) where any of the following conditions apply:

    • Prior to lockdown, which was announced on 23 March 2020
    • Since lockdown was announced on 23 March 2020
    • In response to local lockdown measures
    • You have closed down your business and ceased trading due to the pandemic

    Goodman Nash will then get in touch to discuss how you may be able to qualify for a reduction in your Business Rates.

    We will ask a number of questions in order to understand the extent of the shutdown of operations, and how you reorganised your business going forward.

    Whilst it is not possible to cover off all lines of investigation in this note, we set out below some of the more typical questions we are likely to ask:

    (a) A list of your trading addresses where closure has occurred.
    (b) The period of closure at each address.
    (c) The property sector types (eg Retail, Office, Warehouse, Workshop, etc).
    (d) Whether all trading ceased completely or otherwise.
    (e) The extent of goods left on site where relevant.
    (f) Whether active filing was left on site, or was accessed during closure.
    (g) Whether servers continue to operate on site, providing access to off-site users, and the extent of such usage e.g. minor or otherwise.
    (h) The number of employees working from home.

    Legislation has been in place for many years to provide support in respect of Vacant Properties. This type of assistance is known as Void Relief and can be applied for a maximum period of 6 months for industrial related industries and for 3 months for all other sectors. Further support is also available for part Occupied Properties only.

    COVID-19 has affected whether a property is to be treated as Empty or not. Prior to COVID-19, if you could demonstrate that the business had ceased to operate for a period but still retained a legal interest in the property (freehold or leasehold), then obtaining the Void Relief, was a straight forward matter of presenting the factual evidence of vacation. Post COVID-19, applying these same tests has become more complicated because of the intention in most circumstances to re-occupy at some later date. So the question becomes “is the property vacant or not?”

    Complex legal argument rest behind each and every COVID-19 claim, including considerations of whether your business was prohibited from occupying the premises in law during lockdown.

    Consider Making a COVID-19 Appeal

    Complete the form above if your Business has not yet submitted a COVID-19 Appeal against the current Rateable Value.

    Goodman Nash will then get in touch with you to discuss whether there are any reasons why such an Appeal should not be submitted.

    You should consider submitting an Appeal unless one of the following arises:

    • Your current assessment is substantially too low, so there is a risk that the undervaluation will lead to an increased assessment, rather than a reduction (We can help with this). If you rent the Business Premises we will need some information surrounding the lease or licence in place. We’ll also seek details you may have made of any alterations, refurbishments, etc.

    • Your industry sector has enjoyed a clear boost in profits since the onset of the pandemic AND your Business Premises are specifically adapted to the nature of that trade (again, we can help).

    The thrust behind these appeals is the concept that rents will fall in many property sectors, leading to consequential falls in Rateable Values.

    Whether your Business Premises are rented or not, is not a relevant matter. The question to be determined is whether COVID-19 has altered the demands for your Premises (on the assumption your Premises were rented) and therefore, have the rents have fallen?

    With the closure or part closure already of many high profile businesses, we can be confident certain sectors in some locations will see falls in rent. The reluctance to commute by public transport is certainly having knock-on effects to many businesses, which we will have all witnessed in news bulletins.

    It is not yet possible and far too soon to determine the extent of any falls. Very often, in times of economic crisis, a period of adjustment and reset is required. The rent reviews between landlord and tenant agreeing expectations in the new market place will often need 12 months or so to settle down.

    The technical process involved with a Material Change in Circumstances Appeal (MCC Appeal) is that a detailed Challenge must be made within 16 months of the Valuation Office issuing their preceding Check Decision Notice. This will allow sufficient time for all interested parties to gather the relevant evidence.

    An MCC Appeal must be submitted during the material change, in this case the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Some might argue that you are best protected if you have already submitted a ‘Check’ prior to the easing of lockdown measures sector by sector. We do not believe that is necessary. It is not too late to submit a COVID-19 appeal.

    Delaying the submission of a COVID-19 Appeal could mean your appeal risks becoming invalid should rents fall and then bounce back at a later date (before the next Rates Revaluation due in April 2023). Providing the steps outlined above are followed, then the right time to move forward is as soon as possible.

    It is anticipated that several hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 Appeals will be made and you should consider submitting one of them.

    In summary, if you have yet to take any action, and you’ve read with interest we advise you complete the form and receive a free consultation.

    *Our Fees

    GN operate on a No Win No – Fee basis, so we invest all our hard work to achieve success. If we fail to achieve any business rate savings from our efforts, we will not charge any fees.

    In respect of Rateable Value appeals, be it pre COVID-19 or post COVID-19, it may be necessary to inspect your premises to take measurements as part of satisfying our legal duties under the English “Check, Challenge and Appeal” system.  Here we may require a small charge for doing so. However, you may be able to provide up to date plans to avoid such charges. Upon successful challenges these charges would be reimbursed.

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    Contact Goodman Nash and see how much you could save.