The April Fools of property rating descriptions


The new business rates year starts on 1 April and it seems an apt time to look at some of the weird and wonderful rating list descriptions that have been built up over the years.

Some history trivia: the exact origins of April Fools Day are unclear and whilst writing this article a bit of Googling suggested it was the result of a change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian Calendar in 1563. In the original Julian Calendar, the new year began with the spring equinox around 1 April. When the calendar shifted, there were still some people celebrating the New Year in April rather than January and became the butt of jokes: “April fools”.

So, onto our ratings foolery. You would have thought that selecting the correct property description would be a pretty straightforward job for the VOA – surely just a simple drop down list and away you go, consistent descriptions for similar properties. Life is never that simple. There are in fact 31,670 different property descriptions in the 2017 Rating List.

These descriptions include a vast array with slight variations and there are loads of spelling mistakes, Offc & Premises, Wharehouse & Premises to name a few, but one of the most unfortunate has to be the Pubic Conveniences at Angle Bay in Pembrokshire.

Spelling mistakes aside, it’s when you get into the more unusual properties that things really start to get bizarre. Llama Parks, Worm Farms, War Games Sites, Fishermans Huts and Dog Walking Fields. My favourite is Gnome Reserve & Premises. I kid you not.

This makes life quite difficult when you’re using rating list data to build up a comprehensive view of the size, scale and type of properties that make up the market across England & Wales. Our PropData system uses the rating list data at its core, which we then overlay with who is responsible for paying the rates. We have condensed these 30,000+ rating list descriptions into a dozen specific categories so we can consistently identify the size of say the industrial market in Warrington or the city centre office market in Manchester or indeed anywhere else. Our ‘industrial’ category contains over 6,000 different types of industrial, factory and warehouse descriptions, as well as encompassing the spelling errors. Offices have over 3,000 different permutations.

Having done this we can now create market profiles across England & Wales. So if you’re looking to target Llama walkers, or need somewhere to retire your gnome then we can help. We can also help with comprehensive market  analysis to show the size of markets, number of properties in specific size ranges or with potential lease expiries in specific date ranges plus a multitude of other uses where a comprehensive understanding of a specific market can help with both decision making and targeting.

Find out more at, or give me a call to discuss.

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