Makro Self Service Wholesalers, advised by WHR Property Consultants, has won a landmark ruling on empty rates in the High Court.
WHR challenged Nuneaton & Bedworth Council's refusal to allow empty rate relief following the partial occupation and vacation of one of their properties.
Makro occupied approximately 0.2% of the total floor space of 140,000 sq ft of their vacant warehouse in Coventry. They stored 16 pallets of documents which were removed after the mandatory statutory period of occupation to trigger the empty rate relief. The Judge ruled without reservation that the ratepayer was entitled to minimise his liability for rates and that the method adopted by Makro was perfectly legitimate.
Gareth Buckley, partner and head of the professional team at WHR in Manchester, said: "This case will set a precedent as it reaffirms the legitimacy of the intermittent occupation strategy. It will force many billing authorities who have been challenging this strategy throughout England and Wales to reconsider the way in which they address empty rate relief. Ultimately, the judgment has reconsidered fundamental rating law and reaffirms the ratepayer's right to manage his tax liability and confirms that occupation of a building – even if it is only a small part of a building – constitutes full occupation. This is a strategy that we have advised many of our clients to adopt for many years in order to manage their empty rate relief. However, it is important that it is implemented properly and precisely to comply with the law."
There are currently a large number of similar cases being heard throughout the country although these have been placed on hold following this landmark decision.
DWF also advised Makro.