Is the sense in empty rates beginning to appear?

Whether the upturn in the UK’s economic fortunes is having an effect we may not know but it would appear Government are looking again, at least in part, at some of the empty rates legislation that we have.

The announcement in early July that consultation has begun on proposals to exempt newly built commercial properties comes as very welcome news. With the economy at something of a ‘tipping point’ as we see positive growth many of us as property agents are trying to urge clients to consider speculative development again. If developers take the risks to develop speculatively and then can’t let or sell what they’ve built by the time work has completed, the last thing they want is the ‘Whammy’ of a bill for empty rates.

It is hoped to encourage development by reducing the business rates liability of owners of unoccupied new buildings. It has the potential to apply to properties completed between 1st October 2013 and 30th September 2016 that are left lying empty during the first 18 months after construction.

The proposal will not change the rules on when a property becomes liable for empty property rates but intends to reimburse local authorities that use their discretionary powers to provide relief from business rates in the circumstances set out in the consultation.

This relief may apply to unoccupied non-domestic properties which qualify as new structures; it is not intended for refurbished properties. Buildings will be considered “completed” either on the date they become ready for occupation for the purpose they were constructed or the date on which a completion notice is served.

As we see the take up of empty business space accelerate further and coupled with scarcely any new build over the last 5 years, then the development market needs all the help it can get to encourage new build.

Let’s hope the consultation endorses the proposal.

For information on empty rates or new development contract one of the team at Harris Lamb on 0121 455 9455