Rating Manual section 2: maintaining the rating list

Part 3: estimated assessments

The Valuation Office Agency's (VOA) technical manual for the rating of business (non-domestic) property.

1. Requests for Estimated Assessments

1.1 General

This section relates to the provision of estimated assessments for proposed non-domestic development. Estimates can be provided to Billing Authorities for proposed new properties or alterations, part demolitions or improvements to existing properties.

Following the introduction of the Rates Retention scheme, requests for valuation estimates may be received from local authorities to assist with forecasting future revenue. Before providing estimates, the VO must be satisfied that the person making the request is the relevant billing, or relevant precepting authority,

Requests for estimated assessments should be made in writing and accompanied by sufficient information to allow an estimate to be provided. The information required will include plans.

1.2 Need for Caution

Clearly the better the information the more reliable the estimate will be. An estimate must not be given if the VO considers that insufficient details upon which to make a reliable valuation estimate have been supplied.

Valuation advice and estimates should not be made verbally or in response to verbal requests.

Equally, VOs should not engage in any discussion about the possible different ways in which a site might be developed to obtain the best rental income or the highest or lowest rateable value i.e. there should be no development advice.

(For public sector bodies and other government departments, the VOA’s Property Services is able to provide development advice.)

1.3 Timeliness

It is anticipated that valuation estimates generally will be provided within no more than 28 days of receipt. Requests of a more complicated nature, involving specialist property or several potential units of assessment, may require longer to ensure proper consideration is given but those making request should be kept informed of progress.

1.4 Scope

The VO may provide estimated assessments for potential new hereditaments or for potential developments to an existing hereditament within the ambit of 1.1 above. This might include a change of use, reconstitution or part demolition, for example.

2. Additional Requirements

2.1 Plans

Estimates can not be provided without a plan. If a plan is not supplied at the time of the request, the applicant must be asked for the supply or loan of a plan. Ideally, the plan will have been drawn up by an architect or similar to support a planning application. However, a self-drawn plan may be adequate if it includes sufficient information and measurements.

It should be made clear that the VO is unable to incur any charge or fee for the loan or the supply of plans.

Where required, advantage should be taken of the Electronic Line Drawing Application (ELDA), electronic survey sheet (ESS) or Cadopia.

2.2 Other Information

The VO should ask for any additional information that would enable better provision of an estimated assessment, including the proposed use of the property if it appears likely to be different from its existing use. Where available, requests for passing or proposed rental information, purchase price and letting terms should be made.

3. Basis of Estimates

3.1 General

The estimated assessment must be based solely on the information and plan(s) provided by the applicant, and any relevant data contained in the VO’s existing records. No inspection of the property should normally be made.

3.2 Accuracy and Case Remarks

The VO should endeavour to provide as accurate an estimate as possible. Adequate case remarks should be made showing how the estimate was calculated. Such remarks will be crucial in defending the estimate if it is challenged or becomes the subject of a complaint. These case remarks may also be useful when and if the alterations do take place, and a list alteration is required.

4. Supplying the Estimated Assessment

4.1 Basis and Assumptions (Caveats)

The estimate letter (VO7106) should always be used. The letter explains that the estimated assessment is an informal expression of opinion, without prejudice to any list alteration that may eventually be made, and has been arrived at without inspection of the property.

Details of the evidence provided and upon which the estimate is based, the basis of assessment and any particular assumptions made should be included.

Additionally any other caveats which are individual to the estimate provided should be included in the letter.

4.2 Calculating the Estimate

It is important that the request for a valuation estimate is allocated to the appropriate caseworker or referencer at the earliest opportunity. This will be determined by the nature and location of the property and could fall within the responsibility of the local maintenance, appeal or specialist team or, on occasions, NSU.

4.3 Approval of Estimate

Estimates for should be reviewed and approved by a Team Leader.

4.4 Confirmation in Writing

All estimates are to be confirmed in writing using the template (VO7106) which is in the EDRM case folder. Subject to the usual data security requirements, the estimate can be emailed or sent by post. Where an estimate is emailed, it should first be converted to a PDF.

When an estimate is provided to a local authority, the Rates Retention team should be notified of the figures provided. The Rates Retention team are responsible for liaising with the BAs and will need to be made aware of the estimate provided.

4.5 Return of Plans

Any plan(s) loaned to the VO should be returned, after making any necessary copy, unless permission has been given for their retention and that no charge or fee is incurred.

5. Refusing a Request

If the VO is unable to give an estimated assessment, due to insufficient details having been supplied, or, for any other reason, this should be advised accordingly in writing. The Rates Retention team must also be notified.

6. Registration and Case Procedures

Instructions on registration and processing of requests for estimated assessments are set out in the NDR Procedures Manual.