Business Rates Council supporting Landlord in Tenant Dispute.

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Steve Sidbury, Nov 17, 2015.

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  1. Steve Sidbury

    Steve Sidbury UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    Hello to the Forum members can anyone help with this?

    We rented some business premises in early 2012 and stayed there for 3/4 months a 3 yr lease was signed, according to the lease 3 months written notice was required with 12 month break clause. When we left no written notice was given we had a meeting with the landlord/property owner and all parties verbally amicably agreed to go our separate ways after we carried out certain works to restore property to better than when it was let, which we did, new carpets decoration etc. We heard nothing further from the owner since that date no demands for rent, nothing. The problem we have is he has been to the council18mths after we left and stated we are responsible for the Non Domestic Rates. The Council have been hounding us and we have a summons for hearing 26th Sept. I have one or two questions if anyone can help.

    1. The property was immediately advertised for re letting when the keys were surrendered to the landlord on our understanding the lease had been terminated. I have been told that there are four tests to establish whether we are liable for the rates. We were neither in occupation nor possession of the property, no keys or access. All post was Royal Mail re-directed from the date of vacating the property. Does anyone one know what these four tests are?

    2. The Council have chosen to chase us 18 months after we vacated the property, shouldn't they really be chasing the owner. We have been told he is the person responsible but the Council are ignoring our claims. I have heard from another commercial landlord that he has always been asked to pay the rates when tenants have vacated even if a lease is in place.

    3. Whatever we say affidavits and so on they do not seem to take any notice and just plough on regardless. From what I have read, the hearing although it is at the magistrates court no magistrate is involved, we are just going to deal with a council official, hardly a level playing field, not expecting much justice and fair play.

    Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Posted: Nov 17, 2015 By: Steve Sidbury Member since: Nov 16, 2015
  2. nickmarsh

    nickmarsh UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    26 1
    You were obviously liable for the period during which you physically occupied the premises. Presumably you are objecting to being asked to pay rates for the period after that. You should have notified the council when you left. Unfortunately the liability for business rates on an empty premises falls on the person legally entitled to its possession eg under an ongoing lease. I suspect that the council are treating you as the ongoing leaseholder and ignoring the fact that the landlord (or a new occupant) took possession. You will need to provide evidence that you not only quit the property but that the lease ended. You will have the opportunity to do so at the hearing. If you have been ordered to attend magistrates court then it will not be a council employee hearing the case.It will be magistrates.
    Posted: Nov 17, 2015 By: nickmarsh Member since: Mar 12, 2015
  3. PipeTen-Carl

    PipeTen-Carl UKBF Regular Full Member

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    Posted: Nov 17, 2015 By: PipeTen-Carl Member since: Mar 6, 2010
  4. rach88

    rach88 UKBF Regular Free Member

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    Hi Steve

    A hearing 26 September? Next year, surely not?

    1. As nickmarsh says, you need to show that the lease ended when you surrendered the keys. It sounds like a surrender "by operation of law" can arguably be implied and your lease therefore came to an end at that point. Given that the surrender was not formally documented you need as much evidence as you can to back up your version of the facts.
    In order for a lease to be surrendered by operation of law it is not sufficient for the landlord and tenant simply to agree that the lease should come to an end. Instead, it depends on the landlord and tenant doing acts so inconsistent with the continuance of the lease that they cannot deny that a surrender has taken place. If the handing back of keys amounted to a symbolic handing back of possession that should suffice. If the landlord was merely holding on to the keys in order to re-let the premises for your benefit, that would not.
    Possible sources of evidence: File notes of your conversations with the landlord at the time. Any correspondence between you and your landlord referencing the agreement. Evidence that the utilities etc went back into his name and that you tried to put the business rates back into his name (if you did). The handover of keys - any receipt for the keys. Affidavits as you suggest. Evidence from the letting particulars that the landlord was marketing the unit with vacant possession. Lack of rental invoices. Etc.
    I assume the landlord has not re-let the property yet?

    (You mention four tests, perhaps the tests for rateable occupation - these are actual occupation, exclusive occupation, beneficial occupation, and occupation for not too transient a period. However I do not think these would be relevant as you are not disputing occupation, given that the property has been vacant. You are instead disputing who had the legal right to possession and is therefore liable for the empty rates).

    2. So long as there is a lease is in place the tenant remains liable, even if they move out.

    3. As I understand it the magistrates "hearing" is a rubber stamping exercise where the judge gets a copy of a spreadsheet from the Council listing business rates accounts in arrears and automatically issues Liability Orders without any consideration of individual cases. I think it is a terrible system.
    If you want to a proper hearing you need to contact the court in advance and tell them you will be attending the hearing and wish to argue your case in front of the judge. It may well be worth employing a solicitor to do this depending on the amount at stake as once a Liability Order has been issued it is very difficult to challenge. Equally the solicitor may be able to resolve the matter before the hearing by contacting the Council and putting your case forward.

    Good luck.
    Posted: Nov 17, 2015 By: rach88 Member since: Sep 4, 2013
  5. Steve Sidbury

    Steve Sidbury UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    7 0
    Hi Nick, Carl and Rachel
    Thank you very much for all your kind messages and amazing information. Sorry the hearing date is 26th November, don't know where I got September from. I have written to the Court with copies for the Council in an attempt to get the matter struck out. I have accepted occupation of the premises for the stated 3/4 months. The Council were notified the day after we left and have accepted and acknowledged that.

    Fortunately I have got witnesses (2) for the meeting with the landlord concerning surrender of the lease. it was all very amicable until the landlord decided much later to renege on our friendly agreement.Nothing whatsoever was ever heard from the owner landlord right up to today which I believe is tacit agreement that the lease was ended and all of our obligations were ended at the same time.

    I have been struggling with this since March 2014, these council officials are very slippery and the landlord/owner of the property happens to be a former very senior council employee of long standing. The dirty tricks and shady tactics they have used in the past to get a liability order against me would not be believed. The stuff they have got up to is more reminiscent of of a back street money lender than a regulated government body, sorry about the off topic comments.

    There is one thing in addition which may help me. The lease has errors in it. The date of commencement of the lease was changed and in the copy they have sent, me this change was not initialed by either party, secondly the address of the property is incomplete part of the first line of the address is incomplete and the post code is missing. Does anyone know whether because of these errors the lease would be unenforceable. Someone familiar with the legally binding nature or the accuracy of actual leases may have a thought on this.

    To date I have been dealing with this personally I did employ a solicitor at the outset he was a disaster and made things worse. However I do agree and it seems very good advice that I should get a solicitor to go with me on the day to argue my case.

    Once again thank you everyone for your help

    I am going to look at the website that Carl advised me to look at.

    Posted: Nov 18, 2015 By: Steve Sidbury Member since: Nov 16, 2015
  6. Steve Sidbury

    Steve Sidbury UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    7 0
    Hi Carl,

    Thank you very much for the link to the Sheffield who pays council tax site. This appears to apply to Council Tax only on domestic dwellings. Very useful info though. Do they mention anything anywhere in respect of non-domestic (commercial) properties.

    Many thanks


    Posted: Nov 18, 2015 By: Steve Sidbury Member since: Nov 16, 2015
  7. Scalloway

    Scalloway UKBF Legend Free Member

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    Posted: Nov 18, 2015 By: Scalloway Member since: Jun 6, 2010
  8. Steve Sidbury

    Steve Sidbury UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    Thank you very much S and other contributors,

    That is very helpful information, one or two councils are quite free with their information whilst most of the others like to keep you in the dark.

    In the very short time we were in occupation we applied for small business relief but left before this could be implemented. I wonder if there is any value in pursuing this, which we would have been granted had we stayed on, just looking at all avenues at this stage.

    Many thanks


    Posted: Nov 18, 2015 By: Steve Sidbury Member since: Nov 16, 2015
  9. MikeJ

    MikeJ UKBF Big Shot Free Member

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    Posted: Nov 18, 2015 By: MikeJ Member since: Jan 15, 2008
  10. Steve Sidbury

    Steve Sidbury UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    7 0
    Hi Mike,
    Thank you for your reply, who's advice, which post, were you referring to?
    Many thanks

    Posted: Nov 19, 2015 By: Steve Sidbury Member since: Nov 16, 2015
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