Empty property rates
Rates are a major outgoing for both owner and occupier clients and are worth keeping an eye on, considering rates usually have to be paid on premises whether they are occupied or not. Rates on empty property are not new (see History), but since 1 April 2008 empty property rates have doubled in England and Wales from 50% to 100% of the occupied level. Not all premises are subject to empty property rates and there are various 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.
A popular phrase, much used when the UK government announced its intention to extend the empty property rate to industrial and warehouse property in April 2008, was that 'empty property relief' was being withdrawn. This is not how the system works. Effectively the rating of empty property is achieved by levying a separate, different and additional rate from the occupied rate.
This section primarily details how the rating of empty property is achieved in England and Wales. The position for Scotland is similar but the Scottish legal system is different, the legislation is not the same and there are practical differences. Separate information is provided on the Scottish system and further information is also provided on the Northern Ireland system.