Business Rates Summons

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Steve Sidbury, Nov 16, 2015.

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  1. Steve Sidbury

    Steve Sidbury UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    7 0
    Can anyone help?

    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, 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 council 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 one is 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, one is 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 16, 2015 By: Steve Sidbury Member since: Nov 16, 2015
  2. thelegalstop

    thelegalstop UKBF Enthusiast Full Member

    906 142
    Hi Steve,

    Here are the answers:

    1. Rateable occupation is occupying a hereditament so as to be liable to pay a rate. In the case of LCC v Wilkins (VO) [1957], the court brought together various prior cases to establish four essentials for rateable occupation:

    • Actual occupation — requires a physical occupation of the property, in the sense that some use is made of it or control exercised over it. It is treated as a matter of fact, so the legal title may not always be relevant.
    • Exclusive occupation – Also a matter of fact, although legal title will often play a part. The courts have laid down that where there are competing occupations, the facts must be considered to establish where paramount control lies. For example, in Westminster City Council v Southern Railway Co & Others [1936], the court had to consider the level of control exercised by operators of various stalls and shops on a railway station, compared to that of the railway company.
    • Beneficial occupation – of some benefit to the occupier. It is not necessary to consider financial profit, as the test here is whether someone will pay rent for the property. For example, in R v School Board for London (1886), the board operating a school could take no profit; the court held that this did not prevent beneficial occupation.
    • Not too transient – the occupation must not be for too short and fleeting a time. The courts have held back from giving a precise length of time, preferring to judge cases on their facts, including the intentions of the parties involved.
    2. I think that in this case, you should remain liable for the business rates up until the day you have vacated the property. The council should have been informed of you moving out, and all next rates should be paid by the owner/new occupier. I think that the council may have wrong information about the date of you moving out, and it should be corrected as soon as possible.

    3. If you have been summoned to the Magistrate's Court, then you will have an option to present your defence. You may wish to prepare it before with your solicitor, and send it into the court before the hearing. Alternatively, you can attend it yourself (with your representative) and present the defence there and then.

    Magistrate's Courts work with such cases every day, and it's very common for the defendant not to attend the hearing. That is why you may have read it's just the council's representative there.

    However, if the council is informed of the date of you vacating the property, and their records are amended, then they may decide to drop the case. If not, you will need to get legal advice and prepare your defence.
    Posted: Nov 17, 2015 By: thelegalstop Member since: Mar 31, 2012
  3. rach88

    rach88 UKBF Regular Free Member

    193 56
    Oops, I didn't see this post before replying to the other thread. I would just say that

    1) I am not sure these tests are relevant in your case as you are disputing the empty rates. Unfortunately the days when rates was a tax on occupation are long gone!

    2) As a result what matters is not simply when you moved out but when your lease ended. That is why it is important to show the lease was surrendered when you handed back the keys and the landlord accepted them.

    3) Make sure to contact the court in advance of your hearing if you would like to be present to argue your case.
    Posted: Nov 18, 2015 By: rach88 Member since: Sep 4, 2013
  4. Steve Sidbury

    Steve Sidbury UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    7 0
    Hi Rachel,

    Thank you very much for your reply, sorry I am new to the forum and didn't know what I
    was doing to begin with, hence the different postings.

    Best wishes, thanks again

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