Unprofessional Rating firms targeted by new Code of Practice

Ill advised appeals leading to some firms suffering substantial increases

25 May 2017

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Professional rating consultants have become increasingly concerned about the practices of some unscrupulous firms offering rating services. These firms target occupiers with misleading and exaggerated promises to secure reductions in the rateable value of their properties. Occupiers can be besieged by aggressive marketing tactics and not be made aware that ill advised appeals can lead to increasing assessments. They can then be liable to up-front fees; have appeals made on their behalf without proper prior investigation; find that they have signed up to contracts that are less than transparent about length of terms; and discover that there are punitive charges if they try to cancel the contract.

With this in mind, the new Rating Consultancy Code of Practice has been drawn up by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation (IRRV) and the Rating Surveyors’ Association (RSA). It became effective on 1st April 2017 and institutes a code of practice and conduct which members must follow to carry out their work with due skill, care and diligence. Failure to comply with the code is likely to be adjudged negligent by the courts.

“What this means in practice, is that the unscrupulous outfits that are operating in contravention of the guidance in the code can be brought to task by the RICS,” says Andrew West, Director of Business Rates at Cooke & Arkwright and one of the authors of the new code. “Occupiers should be aware that they should be asked to sign a declaration as part of the contractual agreement highlighting important aspects of the code. Amongst other things, the declaration will clearly set out that there is no guarantee of a reduction, that there is a code of practice regulating the industry – and where they can find it, and that there are civil penalties applicable if incorrect information is supplied either by themselves or on their behalf to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).”

“Cooke & Arkwright have been made aware of many instances where ill advised appeals have been made by companies offering rating advice without undertaking a valuation, which have led to assessments suffering substantial increases. Some of these have been backdated many years and this can cause extreme financial stress to beleaguered companies. A proper professional company offering rating services will, as a matter of course, undertake an inspection and  valuation before advising on the merits of appealing.

“We are currently providing expert advice on the proper conduct of a rating appeal on behalf of ratepayers who have suffered increases resulting from poor representation, and are now taking legal action against these rogue companies.”

The Code of Practice has been endorsed by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which worked closely with the RICS in drawing up the code.