East Devon District Council

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Guide A guide to rates relief and reductions

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7. Empty property relief

You don't have to pay business rates on empty properties for three months.

The following properties can get extended empty property relief: 

  • industrial premises (for example, warehouses) are exempt for a further three months 
  • listed buildings - until they’re reoccupied 
  • buildings with a rateable value under £2,600 - until they’re reoccupied 
  • properties owned by charities - only if the property’s next use will be for charitable purposes
  • community amateur sports clubs buildings - only if the next use will be for sporting use

Please tell us when your property becomes vacant by calling 01395 517445 or emailing businessrates@eastdevon.gov.uk

New build empty property relief

The government has introduced a new measure to extend the empty property rate relief for empty new build properties between 1 October 2013 and 30 September 2016.

Empty new builds that are complete on or after 1 October 2013 will now be exempt from payment of empty property rates for up to 18 months, up to state aid limits. The 18-month period includes the initial three or six months exemption. The relief will continue beyond 30 September 2016 for those properties that become eligible before that date.

This is the government's guidance note.

Section 44a relief - partly occupied property

Ratepayers are liable for full non-domestic rates whether a property is wholly occupied or only partly occupied.
However, in certain instances, the Council has the discretion if part of a property becomes temporarily vacant, to award relief in respect of the unoccupied part.  This is called Section 44a relief.

When considering an application for discretionary rate relief the following factors will be taken into account:

  • The circumstances leading to the partial occupation
  • What is the intention of the business in relation to the unoccupied parts
  • Evidence that the unoccupied part will be empty for a short term only

We will not normally give relief under this provision where:

  • Part occupation is likely to exceed a short time
  • Part occupation is seasonal
  • It appears there is no effort being taken to let, sell, re-occupy or totally vacate
  • It is for a retrospective period

How to apply

Email businessrates@eastdevon.gov.uk or

Write to:
Business rates team
East Devon Devon District Council
Knowle
Sidmouth
EX10 8HL

 and include:

The premises will need to be inspected in order to verify the information that has been provided.

If we decide to grant the relief, we will ask the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to apportion the rateable value of the property between the occupied and unoccupied parts. Relief will only be granted on the unoccupied part for up to three months (six months for industrial property). This mirrors the statutory exemption for empty premises.

If you do apply for Section 44a relief, please continue to pay your business rates as shown on your bill while your application is being processed. 

Taking a property out of rating

If your property is not capable of beneficial occupation – for example, if it is in poor condition and cannot be economically repaired – the VOA may decide it should be taken out of rating altogether.

However, if a property is damaged for the purposes of avoiding rates, under new anti-avoidance legislation introduced by the government, the VOA will be required to disregard the change in the property’s state when assessing its rateable value.  

To contact the VOA telephone 03000 501 501 email ratingsouthwest@voa.gsi.gov.uk