The Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Act gives effect to a Government policy commitment made in the Autumn Budget 2017 to reverse some of the effects on the business rates system, in England, of the Supreme Court decision in ‘Woolway v Mazars’.
The Supreme Court’s decision in ‘Woolway v Mazars’ meant we had to revise how properties where occupiers use two or more separated spaces within a building were valued. We were legally obliged to treat different areas of the same building (which are accessed through communal areas) as separate premises for business rates purposes. We had previously valued separate but adjoining areas (occupied by one individual or company) as a single assessment. The legislation amends this aspect of the Supreme Court decision.
Where two properties are occupied by the same person or company and are contiguous, provided they are not used for entirely different purposes, we will value them as a single assessment. In order to be considered contiguous, some or all of a wall or means of enclosure of one must form part of a wall or means of enclosure to the other, or if on consecutive storeys of the same building some or all of the floor of one must lie directly over the ceiling of the other.
Buildings which have more than one occupier, and where the parts in the same occupation are not contiguous because they are separated by other occupations or shared areas such as stairwells and corridors, are treated as multiple hereditaments. This will also apply to car parking areas if they are separated from the building by shared areas.
When this legislation applies
The legislation has effect in England but not in Wales (where the effects of the ‘Woolway v Mazars’ decision remains in place).
The legislation is retrospective and has effect for financial years beginning on or after 1 April 2010.
Ratepayers can ask us to reconsider where we have previously split a single property into more than one.
For current valuations, use the check and challenge process to submit a merger and follow the in-service guidance to notify us that it is related to this legislation.
For valuations that were split before 31 March 2017, we will issue guidance once secondary legislation is made to allow us to amend the 2010 lists.
To help make this clearer, these are some examples of how non-domestic buildings could be assessed in England. They don’t cover every possible scenario, but aim to provide a general understanding of how the law applies.
Company A occupies all seven floors of an office building. Every floor has a separate lease, but company A is the sole occupier. All floors are accessed from central core areas, such as lifts, stairwells and hallways. Company A will have one assessment for the entire building, because it is the only occupier of the whole building.
Companies B and C share occupancy of an eight-floor office building. Company B occupies the ground floor to 3rd floor, and Company C occupies the 4th floor to 7th floor. All floors are accessed by communal areas, such as lifts, stairwells and hallways. Company B will have one assessment of the ground floor to 3rd floors which are contiguous. Company C will similarly have a single assessment for the 4th floor to 7th floors.
Companies D and E occupy alternate floors of a four- floor office building. Company D occupies the ground and 2nd floors, and Company E occupy the 1st and 3rd floors. The floors are accessed by communal areas, such as lifts, stairwells and hallways. Companies D and E will have separate assessments for each floor they occupy since their occupations do not pass the contiguity test.
Company F owns a five-floor office block. It occupies the ground and 1st floor and also the 3rd and 4th floors of the building, renting out the 2nd floor to Company G. All floors are accessed by communal areas, such as lifts, stairwells and hallways. Company F will have two separate assessments, one for the ground and 1st floors and one for the 3rd and 4th floors. Company G will have a separate assessment for the 2nd floor.
Company H occupies three industrial units 1, 2 and 4 which form part of a terraced row with a shared external service yard. Units 1 and 2 are adjacent but have no interconnection other than by exiting from one building to the other through the shared service yard. Unit 4 is separated from Units 1 and 2 by Unit 3 which is occupied by Company J. Company H will have two assessments. Units 1 and 2 will form one assessment as they are contiguous and Unit 4 will be a separate assessment on its own. Company J will also have a separate assessment for Unit 3.
Company K occupies two adjacent retail units within a shopping centre. There is no access between the two units, except by exiting from one unit into the shopping mall and then entering the other. Company K will have one assessment as the two units are in the same occupation and contiguous.
Company L occupies the 1st floor of a five floor office building. Externally, there is a car park. Company L has exclusive occupation of a row of six car spaces. Company L will have two separate assessments: one for the 1st floor office and a separate one for the six car spaces. The car spaces form a single separate assessment. They don’t pass the contiguity test with the 1st floor office but the six spaces are contiguous to one another and so meet the criteria to form one car park assessment.