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Interviewer: Roger, since the general election business rates have been of great interest, why is that?
Roger Cohen: There are three reasons. The first is that business rates are predicted to produce £22.4 billion of revenue from 1.7 million properties in the last financial year. Secondly, the revival of the high street impact of internet shopping and also the effect of empty property rates is a big issue. Thirdly, the Government has gone to consultation as to how the rating system works.
Interviewer: But why as a lawyer are you interested in it?
Roger Cohen: Well, first it’s a big commercial issue for our clients and secondly the last 12 months have been a bumper time for rating disputes. Interviewer: And of those cases and of those disputes are there any really significant ones that stand out?
Roger Cohen: The stand out decision was given in February 2015. It’s a concern to developers who are stripping out premises in order to redevelop them. Briefly, what the court said was that the property only comes out of rating when the redevelopment works starts. Previously, the property would come out of rating when strip out was complete.
Interviewer: That’s a significant change, can you see that developing over time? Roger Cohen: Well it’s a significant concern for developers. The rate payer in that case has made an application to the United Kingdom Supreme Court for permission to appeal. I very much hope that the Supreme Court agree to hear the case and what they can prove is that the property comes out of rating when strip out is complete, not having to wait for the redevelopment to begin. Interviewer: Roger you mentioned there were a number of cases, are we expecting any other significant changes?
Roger Cohen: We are waiting for a decision from the Supreme Court concerning an office building which was in multiple occupation. One of the tenants occupied the second floor and sixth floor and the question was whether those two occupations could be combined together for rating purposes. This is the first time that the courts have had to grapple with the intricacies of modern office occupation. So it is an important decision, as soon as we have it I will be writing an expert insight for the website.
Interviewer: Roger, thanks very much, we will wait to hear.
In this short video, Roger Cohen, Partner, Co-Head of Real Estate Disputes, looks at business rates, why the rating system matters and why recent changes are a cause for concern for developers.
Roger discusses a pending application to the UK Supreme Court about a property strip out as well as looking at an appeal around the intricacies of modern office occupation.