In the present economic climate property owners will have no doubt welcomed a High Court ruling on an empty rates relief avoidance scheme. The court held that the temporary storage of documents occupying only a very small percentage of a warehouse's floor space was actual occupation for the purposes of business liability. This meant that a new period of empty rates relief applied when that occupation ended.
The judgment removes some of the uncertainty around whether a short term letting of six weeks or more can successfully trigger a fresh period of empty rates relief, even where that is the primary intention of the letting. However, Richard Smith, Partner in hlw Keeble Hawson’s Commercial Property Team warns that:-
(a) The four conditions of rateable occupation still need to be fulfilled. These are:-
Actual occupation possession (which involves actual use of the land);
Occupation or possession that is exclusive;
Occupation or possession which is some value or benefit to the occupier or possessor;
Occupation or possession which has a sufficient quality or permanence; and
(b) Owners should also be careful to ensure that the degree of control that they exercise over the occupier's occupation does not amount to occupation by the owner.
For further information or any advice on Commercial Property issues please contact Richard Smith on 0114 2521419 or Gareth Owen on 01302 380220 or David Jameson on 0113 3993476