The Local Government Reform Act 2014 came into effect on 1 July 2014 and introduced very significant changes in the law relating to rates and rates arrears. It has implications for owners, purchasers and occupiers of commercial property.
Property owners are now obliged to notify the local authority where there is a change in the party liable for rates within 14 days of such change and the outgoing party must discharge all rates for which it is liable up to the date of transfer. Failure to comply with these provisions will result in the property owner being levied with a financial penalty equivalent to the amount of unpaid rates (up to a maximum of two years’ unpaid rates). This is in addition to the payment of the outstanding rates by the liable party being either the owner or the occupier of the property.
The Act further provides for the creation of charges which remain a liability on a property for a period of up to 12 years where:
- There are unpaid rates due by a property owner at the time of transfer (up to a maximum of 6 years unpaid rates)
- Where the financial penalty imposed on a property owner for failure to comply with its obligations has not been discharged
Vendors, purchasers and tenants of commercial property should take a cautious approach to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Act.