Newbigin (Valuation Office) (Respondent) v S J & J Monk (a firm) (Appellant) and Interveners  UKSC14
The Supreme Court has today given its judgement in a property dispute which will dictate future business rates levels for properties undergoing works or refurbishment.
The case relates to a commercial office building undergoing a scheme of works and had been stripped to shell and whether it should be valued for the purposes of non-domestic rating (business rates) and went beyond “repairs” and if it were still a useable office?
In the Valuation Tribunal and the Court of Appeal the judgement was for the Valuation Officer but many expressed concern as to the practical application of the decision and the matter was appealed by the owner of the building, a firm S&J Monk. A key aspect of the case was the intervention of the Rating Surveyors’ Association that considered that the Court of Appeal decision was likely to produce manifest unfairness and needed further clarification by the highest court in the land.
In today’s unanimous judgment the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal decision and agreed with the judgment of the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) that the property should be reduced in value to Rateable Value £1 and be described as a “building undergoing refurbishment”.
The effect of the judgment is that ratepayers will not need to pay business rates where the rating list is amended in circumstances where the property is subject to significant building works. The benefit will be ensuring that rates will not have to be paid whilst the property is subject to redevelopment – such an approach was stifling development, causing uncertainty, and was considered by many to be unfair, limiting the appetite to invest and redevelop a property, which is in nobody’s interest.
Addressing the question of whether this may create a danger of ratepayers abusing the system the Court of Appeal decision was described in the judgment of the Supreme Court as “novel”, and that prior practice and the guidance previously applied to the Valuation Office Agency in its own rating manual should be followed despite the Agency’s change of approach following the earlier decisions.
Handing down its ruling today, the Supreme Court confirmed that it was entirely appropriate, where the premises were undergoing reconstruction on the material day, that the Upper Tribunal was entitled to alter the rating list as it did to reflect that reality – the assessment was reduced to Rateable Value £1 and described as a building undergoing refurbishment works
Commenting on the decision Howard Elliott said “it is a victory for common sense” and urged ratepayers with building undergoing alteration or refurbishment to seek specialist rating advice in order to minimise liabilities.