The proposed appeal regime is split into three distinct phases.
An initial administrative phase with both parties exchanging factual details such as areas and rent passing on the property. A 12 month time limit on this phase is proposed with civil penalties for careless, reckless or knowing provision of false information.
The substantive phase of the revised process which must be initiated within 4 months of completion of the check stage.
The requirements of this stage are substantial. The appellant must provide grounds for the challenge; an alternative valuation and substantive reasons for the challenge backed by supporting evidence.
The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) will then make a decision on whether the information provided is sufficient to be accepted as a challenge. If not the challenge will be returned to the appellant with the opportunity to provide further information.
The VOA will respond with “proportionate” evidence. The appellant will have the opportunity to respond. It is unlikely the VOA will issue the full evidence upon which the assessment is based in which case a successful outcome will rely on the skill and knowledge of the rating surveyor.
The challenge phase has a proposed backstop period of 18 months.
If the challenge remains unresolved the last stage in the process, appeal, can be invoked. The proposals as they stand will require a fee to move to a Valuation Tribunal hearing. It is proposed that issues before the Tribunal are confined to those raised during the check and challenge stage.
I am a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Rating and Local Taxation Policy Panel and the Welsh Ratepayers Forum, and have been lobbying for changes to the consultation proposals. In particular combining the check and challenge stages and also the removal of the proposed appeal fees, amongst others.
The Department for Communities and Local Government will respond to our proposals although we have not yet been given a date for this response.
The new Welsh Government has not yet confirmed whether there will be similar or identical changes in Wales and hopefully this will become clearer soon as the legislation needs to be in place before 1st April 2017. I suggest it is likely the appeal procedures will be substantially the same in England and Wales.
If implemented, in part or whole, the new procedures will demand high levels of knowledge, experience and professionalism, all of which are fundamental qualities of Cooke & Arkwright's rating service.
We will update on further developments which are likely to occur regularly in the period leading up to the implementation of the new rating list in April 2017.