UK Government takes first step in revising the Check, Challenge, Appeal Proposals in England

13 March 2017

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Those aware of the new burdensome and radical 2017 rating list appeal changes in England may recall that one of the areas of most concern was the proposal that the Valuation Tribunal would only have powers to hear rating disputes if the valuation differences between the parties were “outside the bounds of reasonable professional judgement”.

An example of the impact of the original proposal is illustrated by a large national supermarket chain.   If, “within reasonable professional judgement”, was quantified at, say, 10% the supermarket would not have a recourse to Valuation Tribunal in most appeals. A reduction in the value of this portfolio by 5% results in a reduction in liability to business rates of £60 million per annum which could, with the original proposal, be deemed to be within the bounds of reasonable professional judgement!

This proposal has caused the profession very serious concern that differences of tens of thousands of pounds RV could be covered by this definition, and not capable of remedy at Valuation Tribunal.

Last week  the Government responded to responses to  the Check, Challenge, Appeal consultation paper issued in October 2016. Thankfully this does dilute the initial proposals in allowing the Valuation Tribunal to decide whether it considers the valuation to be reasonable. This will now replace the original proposal to have the right to have a dispute heard only if the differences were “outside the bounds of reasonable  professional judgement”.

The move is a small step in the right direction in reflecting the very significant concerns of the professions on this draconian proposal. The requirement of the Valuation Tribunal deciding whether a valuation is reasonable  without the benefit of a hearing is asking a lot, and it is hoped that this power will be exercised in the ratepayer's favour if there is any degree of doubt. 

We still require more detail. For example whether there will be a right of appeal from the Valuation Tribunal decision that an extant valuation is reasonable.  

A consultation paper on appeal reform in Wales will be issued in the spring with any changes to the existing system implemented from April 2018. The outcome of this consultation is unlikely to be as radical as check, challenge, appeal in England. It is therefore advisable to make 2017 rating list appeals before then.

The Leekes Retail and Leisure Group have substantial property assets within the group and have engaged Andrew West to appeal against rating assessments on these properties since 2010. We have consistently been impressed by Andrew's knowledge of the property market and his negotiating skills have been exceptional. Given Andrew's outstanding performance, we would not hesitate to recommend Andrew to any business large or small seeking to appeal their rates liabilities.

Mike Fowler, Group Finance Director, Leekes Group