However once the initial period of relief has expired a further period of relief is available if the property has been re-let for 6 weeks or more. It is important to note that for this further period of relief to be claimed the occupation must incorporate actual exclusive possession and there needs to be a real benefit or value to the occupier.
The decision earlier this year in Macro Properties Ltd –v- Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council reaffirms that this window of opportunity for Landlords is, for the time being, still very much open.
In that case Macro Properties Ltd (MP) had let a warehouse unit to a Group Company, Macro Self Service Wholesalers Ltd (MSS). MSS surrendered its Lease but entered into a Licence with MP allowing it to store 16 pallets of archived documents at the property, effectively using 0.2% of the floor area for a 2 month period. MP subsequently claimed that this occupation entitled it to a further 6 month exemption from business rates at the end of that occupation. The Local Authority argued that the occupation by virtue of the pallets was not sufficient because the area involved was so small given the size of the total unit.
The High Court accepted MP’s argument and decided that they should be entitled to a further 6 month exemption from business rates. In that case this equated to a saving of some £117,000.00. The Macro decision should be welcomed by property owners as it enables them to use short-term lettings to trigger a fresh period of empty rate relief and it does appear that there is no limit on how many times the rating relief can be triggered.
This window of opportunity may not remain open forever but until the law is reformed on the point there is a very definite way for Landlords to make some significant savings.
If you are a Landlord and are interested in discussing ways in which you might be able to apply the Macro decision in relation to your own properties please email Val Stocker or Jenny Smith within the Commercial Team who will be pleased to advise you.