Unoccupied property

There are no rates payable for the first three months when a non-domestic property becomes empty. This is extended to six months in the case of certain industrial properties. Following this initial exemption period, rates will be charged at the full occupied rate.

If there is a change of ownership whilst the property is empty, no further period of exemption will be allowed unless the property is occupied for a minimum of six weeks. This is because the exemption is on the property and not the owner or leaseholder.

The following categories are exempt from payment of empty property rates under Section 45 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988.

Small properties

Any property with a rateable value of less than £2,900

Listed buildings

Buildings that are subject to listed status are exempt from payment of empty property rates

Occupation prohibited by law

This exemption applies where occupation of a property is legally forbidden, or works are prevented from being carried out to enable occupation. This might apply where a property contains asbestos, or must have a fire certificate issued prior to occupation.

This category of exemption does not apply where the building requires redecoration or other building works, or where planning permission has been denied.

Bankruptcy, Liquidation and Insolvency

  • Where, in respect of the owner's estate, there subsists a bankruptcy order within the meaning of section 381(2) of the Insolvency Act 1986(c).
  • Whose owner is entitled to possession in his capacity as trustee under the deed of arrangement to which the Deeds of Arrangement Act 1914(d) applies.
  • Whose owner is a company which is subject to a winding-up order made under the Insolvency Act 1986 or which is being wound up voluntarily under that Act.
  • Whose owner is a company in administration within the meaning of paragraph 1 of Schedule B1 to the Insolvency Act 1986 or is subject to an administration order made under the former administration provisions within the meaning of article 3 of the Enterprise Act 2002 (Commencement No.4 & Transitional Provisions & Savings) Order 2003(e).
  • Whose owner is entitled to possession in his capacity as liquidator by virtue of an order made under section 112 or section 145 of the Insolvency Act 1986.

Partly occupied property

If a commercial property is only partly occupied, the council has the discretion to grant an exemption on the unoccupied parts of the premises

One example would be where a company is relocating from one premises to another and where the move is phased by occupying or vacating parts of the premises in stages. Another example would be where the occupier of a warehouse reduces the amount of storage available because of a recession.

In this instance we will ask the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to apportion the rateable value of the property between the occupied and unoccupied parts. Your rate bill for the occupied area would be calculated using the rateable value provided by the VOA. Any entitlement to exemption would be calculated using the rateable value of the empty part.

The terms of this relief are laid down in Section 44A of the Local Government Finance Act 1988.

The relief is granted whilst the situation exists but for a maximum of one financial year.

If you think you qualify for this relief you should complete the pdf icon Application for Partly Occupied Property Relief [310kb]  giving full details of the circumstances and provide a map of plan of your premises clearly showing the occupied and unoccupied areas.

Your claim should be sent to the business rates team at:

Business Rates, Riverbank House, Bideford EX39 2QG

If you think your property falls into one of the above categories, but your business rate bill does not reflect it contact the business rates team for further information.