Commercial empty property rates

For most businesses, property rates constitute the third largest outgoing, after staff costs and rent. However, for empty property, they may be the largest outgoing, without any income to pay them. They therefore present a particular challenge to property owners and managers.

There are very few exemptions from empty property rates and there are some reliefs available, so it is important to be aware of the differences between occupied and unoccupied rates and how the liability to empty property rates arises. Effectively the rating of empty property is achieved by levying a separate, alternative rate from the occupied rate.

The issue of empty property rates is yet to be fully resolved in legal terms and is becoming increasingly complex. However, while the very substantial burden of rates remains at 100% for all empty premises, attempts at mitigation will inevitably continue. This isurv section is primarily focused on legislation and cases in England and Wales but also provides an overview of the systems for Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, as business rates are a devolved power, each government has introduced various amendments and reliefs, many of them temporary, which are not covered in this section. The Scottish and Welsh governments are also actively considering empty rate anti-avoidance legislation. 

This section is maintained by Tom Dixon of Daniel Watney.