The national press has suddenly woken up to the issue of the significant issue of the level of business rates payable by commercial property occupiers. The UK's commercial property stock has recently undergone a revaluation, and new rateable values are due to come into force effective 1 April 2017.
Despite the national press headlining significant increases in rates payable, we have found a significant number of clients in the region will, in fact, be paying less come April. This reflects the imbalance in rental values between the north/Scotland and London and the south east. The situation is helped by the threshold in small business rate relief (SBRR) increasing from £6000 to £12,000 - meaning a large number of shops, offices and industrial units will pay zero rates. There is also a sliding scale of reductions for properties with assessments higher than £12,000
We have seen a few anomalies in the region where RV's have not changed as much as we would have expected (such as the reductions in RV's on Dalton Rd, Barrow and King St, Whitehaven which have not reduced as afar as they need to in order to reflect the reduction in retail rental values), and also office RV's in Kendal, which have increased despite no big increases in rental values.
The biggest issue facing clients at present is the spectre of empty rates, which can have a dramatic effect on owners of vacant commercial property - the amount payable is completely disproportionate and adversely affects those landlords who are trying to attract businesses to the region. Unfortunately, since business rates are one of the most successful taxes in terms of collection levels, there is little or no appetite from central government to adjust the empty rates legislation!