A recent Supreme Court verdict has set a new precedent on the assessment of multi-let buildings for rates liability. The decision set out in Woolway v Mazars addresses the unit of assessment to be considered.
The ratepayer in question, Mazars, appealed to the Valuation Tribunal on the Valuation Office’s decision to assess the ratepayer’s two non-contiguous floors (2nd and 6th floors).The ratepayer was successful and the Tribunal allowed the appeal as the floors were ‘functionally interdependent’.
The Valuation Officer responded by appealing to the Upper Tribunal who dismissed his appeal, citing that the two floors could form a single assessment as it was possible to access either floor without leaving the building.
The Valuation Office then took the matter further by appealing to the Court of Appeal who, although in agreement with the Upper Tribunal, allowed the Valuation Office to appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court overturned all previous decisions. The reason for this was that in order to the ratepayer to communicate between the 2nd and 6th floors, they had to utilise the common parts of the building, not included within the demise of the ratepayer.
The effect on ratepayers who occupy multiple non-contiguous or even contiguous floors (dependent upon communication routes) is that with effect from April 2015, the rateable value of their premises may increase as the ‘quantum’ adjustment is addressed resulting in the potential for higher rates liabilities.