Justifiably moaned and complained about is one of Gordon Brown’s final legacies of office.  The contentious removal of empty rates relief continues to haunt many companies from occupiers to investors and developers.

Prior to the change in legislation all empty property benefitted from 100% business rates relief for three months in respect of offices and shops and after that 50% relief until the property was either occupied again or taken out of the rating list.  Industrial property was fully exempted.

The Labour government said this would encourage landlords to let empty buildings whereas most commentators listed the effects as a boom for demolition contractors; a stop to any fledgling return of speculative development and a right down on values of anything empty or likely to become vacant.

Empty property changes have missed their target of raising the millions expected or letting the space anticipated according to reports on government statistics.

The government has continued to miss out on monies they thought would roll in, most likely because of the way some property owners legitimately minimise the impact of the legislation.

Re-thinking and re-working the Rating legislation is probably a challenge too far but there is too much wrong with the current system that it drags too much on the property industry and is a barrier to growth too often.

Andy specialises in Commercial Property Business Rates on a national basis. For advice on all rates matters, contact the team at Harris Lamb on 0121 455 9455 or email

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