Outer House case considering whether a rating authority was entitled to levy rates on the owner of a newly erected and unoccupied building without first having served a completion notice (under schedule 3 to the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1966) on the owner.

Cosmopolitan and Almondvale argued that demands for rates at office premises in Bellshill were illegal as the Council had not served a completion notice on them to establish a deemed date of completion of the office. As such they sought repayment of £289k on the grounds of unjustified enrichment.

However, Lord Hodge held that the action by Cosmopolitan and Almondvale was irrelevant. He found that the language in the 1966 Act did not indicate that the completion notice procedure was intended to be the only method by which the owner and rating authority could establish the date of completion of a building. There was also no policy reason for adopting such an approach. Taken together, s24 of the 1966 Act and regulation 2 of the Non-Domestic Rating (Unoccupied Property) (Scotland) Regulations 1994 require the levying of rates on all relevant buildings which have been unoccupied for a continuous period of more than three months. In order to be classified as unoccupied for rating purposes a newly erected building must be complete in the sense that it is capable of occupation. The date of completion of a building is a question of fact and is one which the rating authority and the owner can agree upon or contest in litigation. The completion notice procedure provides an additional mechanism by which a rating authority can establish an undisputed deemed date of completion.

The full judgement is available from Scottish Courts here.