Valuation Office agrees Liverpool rates refunds

Simon Donohue

A number of Liverpool city centre occupiers and landlords will receive a business rates refund after the Valuation Office accepted that construction of several Grade A office blocks led to a material change in circumstances.

Appeals on behalf of 190 occupiers and landlords related to the way in which the Liverpool property market was affected by the construction of buildings including 20 Chapel Street and 5 St Paul's Square.

The material change in circumstances was identified as the negative impact that the creation of new Grade A office spaces had on the obtainable rents for existing space in the face of increased competition and supply. The movement of some occupiers into new Grade A office space also increased the availability of second-hand office space.

Refunds will comprise some of the business rates paid between the start of construction of a number of new Grade A offices in November 2008 and the most recent revaluation in March 2010.

The challenge was led by Mark Paterson, an associate in Matthews & Goodman's Northern rating team, on behalf of agents representing occupiers and landlords.

Not every occupier and landlord was successful in proving that they are within the affected area, which stretched roughly between Old Hall Street and the Albert Dock in Liverpool city centre.

Depending on the size of the commercial premises occupied at the time, the rateable value allocated between November 2008 and 31 March 2010 will be reduced by between 10% and 2.5%.

Those rateable values were initially decided in 2005.

Paterson said that the biggest beneficiaries could receive a "five figure sum". "The material change is likely to save many businesses money well into the current 2010 List, due to the workings of transition," he added.

"This is the end result of over two years' complex discussion with the VOA," Paterson said. "It is likely that many office occupiers in Liverpool will start to see the benefit of rate refunds, as and when appeals are settled in the coming months."

Individual occupiers and landlords, many of whom are seeking to reduce the amount they paid for vacant office space, will now use the framework agreed by the Valuation Office to make their own claims for a refund.

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