Part 9: inspections and miscellaneous administrative matters
The Valuation Office Agency's (VOA) technical manual for the rating of business (non-domestic) property.
1. Management Matters
Management matters are dealt with in HR Manuals. They should be read in conjunction with the instructions contained in this Manual which deals specifically with Rating procedures. If an apparent conflict of instructions arises, the matter should be referred to CEO for advice.
2. Delegation of Responsibility
VOs should encourage delegation, initiative and interest at all levels amongst all their staff so that abilities and potential are developed and used to the best advantage.
2.2 Managerial control of assessment-making
However, VOs must ensure that all staff are fully aware of the limits of their delegated responsibilities and management control must be such that inexperienced staff are not allowed to deal with cases unsupervised which are beyond their capabilities. Whilst it is both reasonable and practical for staff gaining experience to take responsibility for assessments in straightforward cases, where a property does not fall into a recognised pattern of values the opinion of an experienced member of staff is to be obtained before an assessment is finalised.
2.3 Opportunities to gain Tribunal experience
All HEO to Grade 6 staff (except those excused surveying assistance duties) should be given the opportunity to gain experience in conducting cases before Valuation Tribunals.
3. Inspection of rating records
Para 8(1) and 8(6-10) and para 9(1-4) of Schedule 9 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988 (as amended by the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 Schedule 5 para 48) gives any person the right to inspect and take copies or transcripts of, or extracts from, various rating records without payment.
These records include:
a. a list currently in force or a list in force at any time in the preceding 5 years; and
b. any proposal or notice of appeal as regards a list which is in force or has been in force in the preceding 5 years
However, a person may require the VO to provide photo copies of any of the above documents and a reasonable charge may be made for complying with the request.
3.2 The Rating List
Legally, the rating list is in the possession of the VO and the Billing Authority retain only a copy. Para 8(1) of Schedule 9 to the LGFA 1988 states that access should be afforded to any person to any information held in a rating list, without payment.
However, if any person contacts the VO in writing or by telephone and asks for information to be supplied relating to any number of hereditaments, he/she must be made aware, before the relevant information is supplied, that a charge is levied on this service and the information will be supplied on receipt of a cheque or postal order (made payable to the Inland Revenue). Details of payment procedure can be found in Customer Service Manual –Part 17 – Sale of Information.
Schedule 5 to the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 permits a charge to be made for the above service. This should be done using form VO7034 (RM Appendix 3:6:1) On receipt the relevant information should be forwarded to the enquirer using form VO7035 (RM Appendix 3:6:2)
4. Inspection of Property
Referencing procedures are outlined in the Rating Maintenance and Rating Appeals Process Maps. The Referencing Manager will review all cases received to decide whether an inspection is required.
Inspections should be arranged to take place during normal office hours although this does not preclude arrangements being made otherwise if this is more convenient to the occupier.
4.2 Inspection notices
Whenever an appointment is made, the officer concerned should make every effort to carry out the inspection on the appointed day and, where appropriate, at the time stated.
4.3 Identity documents
Every member of staff, other than those at AA (except those excused surveying assistance duties), is issued with an identity document, form VO 9053.
The following additional documents are issued locally to certain staff:
a. Authorisation for any member of staff to “enter on, survey and value the hereditament”
b. Authorisation for those officers who are to represent the VO at VCCT hearings.
4.4 Production of identity documents
All officers should pay particular attention to the need to exercise tact when making inspections. Officers should proffer their identity document for inspection as a matter of course when introducing themselves and not wait to see if production of the document is demanded.
Under no circumstances, even when the proper formalities have been observed, should a visiting officer insist upon entry if the occupier refuses permission. Where an officer is given permission to enter the premises but, before the inspection is complete, the occupier asks him/her to leave, he/she should comply with the request without question or delay. Where entry is refused or an inspection is terminated for no apparent reason, the facts should be reported to the VO who, depending on the circumstances, may report the matter, through the Team Leader/Unit Head
It is the responsibility of all those engaged on inspection work to take the utmost care to ensure that the public in general, and occupiers in particular, are given no cause for concern, and to identify themselves readily whenever they are challenged.
A comparatively trivial or seemingly insignificant irregularity may provide an opportunity for complaint. Any risk of an allegation that powers of entry on to private property are being abused must therefore be avoided.
4.5 Inspection permits or special passes
Certain bodies, such as the British Airports Authority, prefer to issue their own inspection permits or special passes to Valuation Office staff and these should be used whenever property belonging to such bodies is to be inspected.
4.6 Obtaining permission to inspect
Any officer visiting a property for inspection purposes should be reasonably certain that any person giving permission for an inspection to be made has the authority to do so.
4.7 Only a minor present
If an officer is confronted with a situation where only a minor (child) is present on the premises, under no circumstances should any inspection of the property be made either internally or externally. This also extends to the taking of , or checking of dimensions.
On returning to the office, the officer should send a letter to the occupier explaining the circumstances and, an appointment should be made with a request that an adult will be present on the next occasion.
4.8 Request to leave
Any request to leave the premises must be complied with as soon as is practicable.
Where there is still a need to inspect the property because you have not gathered sufficient information to make an opinion of value, you should advise the occupier that a further inspection will be necessary and that an inspection letter will be sent to them.
5. Conduct of an Inspection
The law imposes certain obligations and reserves certain rights to the public which are material to the functions of the Valuation Office Agency. Staff have a duty to give all reasonable assistance to the public to enable them to fulfil their obligations and obtain their rights within the context of an inspection and to deal with any relevant matters raised during the course of the visit which are within the responsibility of the Valuation Office Agency.
5.2 Answering enquiries
The inspection of a person’s property is a sensitive matter and it is essential that this duty is carried out in a tactful, courteous and diligent manner. It is important to be as helpful as possible. If the occupier makes an enquiry about a matter which is within the responsibility of the officer conducting the inspection, it should be answered strictly within the limits of his or her knowledge and experience. Staff should tactfully avoid discussing matters with which they are not familiar and any valuation or legal matters outside their responsibility. Information given in good faith, but not soundly based, may mislead the occupier and, in the end, do more harm than good.
5.3 Occupier’s participation
The occupier should be encouraged to accompany the officer during the inspection. Although this may prove distracting, it has positive advantages in that the occupier will be made aware of the thoroughness of the inspection and may be prompted to make observations which could yield useful information or provide the opportunity to resolve any difficulties or misunderstandings on the spot. If a matter is raised which is outside the knowledge, experience or responsibility of the officer concerned, he or she should make a note of it and inform the occupier that the comment or enquiry will receive consideration. A brief written report should be made, attached to the survey record and linked with the core record file for the attention of the officer responsible.
6. Abortive Visits to Hereditaments
6.1 Use of stock letters
Where a previously suggested appointment has not been kept by the occupier or in those cases mentioned in para 4.1 a stock letter should be left at the premises.
Stock letters in the form of RM Appendix 3:6:4 should be produced on A4 size letter-headed paper and officers engaged on surveying assistance duties should make full use of them.
6.2 Completion of stock letters
Before leaving a stock letter at the premises the following details should be completed on the site:-
i) After “The Occupier”, insert the address of the property;
ii) The office telephone number at the head of the letter should be amplified by the insertion of the appropriate extension number;
iii) In the body of the letter, give an indication of the alterations, the date of the next proposed visit and the approximate time of arrival, stating that it is approximate.
iv) The letter should be attached to a business-reply label and pushed through the letter box.
7. Difficulties in Inspecting Property
7.1 Before alteration of the List
Where an officer is unable to make an inspection of a property because the occupier refuses to give permission, even though an inspection notice or stock letter has been issued and the identity document proffered, and declines to agree to an appointment for a later date, the occupier should be politely informed that the matter will be reported to the VO.
Similarly, where an officer is unable to inspect a property because the occupier fails to respond to an inspection notice or a stock letter and is habitually away from the premises, the officer should report the matter to the officer-in-charge and seek advice on the next course of action.
Any refusal of consent to enter to inspect a property should be recorded with the name of the occupier if known and the date of refusal in the case remarks on the CDB.
If after serving an inspection letter and making every effort to contact the occupier has not resulted in access being given, the VO should where possible make a best estimate of the assessment on the information available from other sources.
It will be seen from para 7 Sch 9 LGFA 1988 that there are no means open to the Valuation Officer to insist upon entry on to property for the purpose of rating.
8. Inspection of Properties where special precautions are required
Generally, officers engaged on inspections should co-operate with occupiers and comply with any reasonable requests which may be made regarding the date, time or conduct of inspections, or any particular requirements made necessary by the nature of the hereditament to be inspected. This is particularly important when visits are made to farms and similar properties and the advice of the police should always be followed in cases involving outbreaks of foot and mouth or other diseases.
Co-operation with the occupier’s request would not, however, extend to the officer concerned agreeing to undertake to relieve the occupier of his liability for any injury suffered by the officer during the inspection. If an undertaking of this type, whether verbal or written, is required by the occupier, CEO should be consulted, before the inspection of the hereditament is undertaken.
9. Signing of Documents
91 Use of name-stamps
Use of the office stamps bearing the names of the VO and any authorised person is authorised for:-
- VO notices;
- documents having effect as appeals to VT’s;
- copies of the above documents; and
- forms of rent return.
Such use is not authorised for:-
- forms of agreement;
- certificates or statements of apportionment issued by virtue of any statutes.
9.2 VO’s powers of delegation
Any person, authorised by the VO, has an ex officio power to sign, or authorise the use of a name-stamp on, all the documents listed in sub-para (2) above. The signature, or name, will be qualified with the words “for Valuation Officer”.
A VO may issue an authority for specified billing authorities or to any member of staff of band 4 or above, to sign forms of agreement; in such cases, the member of staff’s signature will be qualified with the words “for Valuation Officer”. See RM Section 1 Part 1 para 7
9.4 UT cases
See RM 1:5.
See Customer Service Manual – Part 5 – General Enquiries.
10. Queries to and attitude to the Press
Under no circumstances should queries be addressed to the professional Press. Similarly, articles, correspondence or other matters appearing in the technical or daily Press which suggest a departure from orthodox practice or procedure should not influence a VO unless or until so instructed by CEO.
See also Corporate Communications Intranet Home Page containing a link to “Dealing with the Media”.
11. Copies of Rating Lists to Third Parties
Statutory undertakers and drainage boards may be supplied, by arrangement, with copies of the rating lists and amendments.
Annual charges, which are reviewed on a yearly basis and issued in advance, are levied on the individual statutory undertakers or boards.
When an existing or a newly-constituted statutory undertaker makes its first request for a copy of a rating list details should be sent to CEO who will issue the necessary instructions including details of the accounting arrangements.
13. Local Purchases by VOs
13.1 Maps and plans
See Finance Manual Section 5 and Human Resources – Supplies and Services Intranet homepage.
13.2 Official guide books to Mansion Houses and Stately Homes
See Rating Manual Volume 5:1000, Finance Manual Section 5 and Human Resources – Supplies and Services Intranet Homepage .
14. Photographs for production at a VT, the UT or in Arbitration
See Rating Manual volume 1:4 Part C for presentation of evidence at VT hearings and Rating Manual Volume 1:5 for UT hearings.
15.1 Rating documents
Whenever the postcode is available, it should be inserted in the address panel on all rating documents being transmitted by post. This will be particularly important when copies of VO notices are being posted and there is a statutory time limit for service. As delivery times will vary throughout the country VOs should try to establish from the Head Postmaster what the normal delivery times are in their areas so that sufficient allowance can be made when posting documents.
15.2 New properties
In the case of newly-erected properties, where the postcode will not normally be listed in the postcode directory held by the VO, enquiries should be made to the Postcode Section of the local Head Post Office. Any other difficulties over postcodes should be resolved similarly.