As a way to stimulate lettings a heated valuation market the then New Labour Government introduced the Rating (Empty Properties) Act in 2007. The purpose was to ensure that buildings were not vacant at the businesses were occupying space. So when, the Rating (Empty Properties) Act was introduced in 2007 it was met with derision from the property industry with claims of “unfairness” and “excessive taxation”. Of course, with the alternative of withdrawing funds from the NHS and Education rather than extract millions from an industry (seen to the average voter as “wallowing in cash’), together with the politically important incentive to get buildings into use, successive governments have continued to apply the tax vigorously.
However this has caused friction throughout the industry. Property Owners see it as punitive given it’s not a tax on business but assets. Conversely, Local Authorities, not being the direct recipients of business rates have been stretched in resources to collect the funds for central government and are dealing with vast amounts of paperwork, administration and frustration. The industry is now fraught with cases of unethical ways to mitigate costs through in-genuine occupation or abusing a Limited company status and charitable concessions, this clash leads to frustration in the industry that helps no-one.
The slightly untoward methods that have been employed recently brought a review by the Government in December 2014 asking interested parties to comment on “what methods of avoidance are you aware of?”. They received 143 responses, 80 Local Authorities, 34 rating agents, 14 representative bodies, and 6 individual buildings. The biggest issue was around “false” charities an unethical occupations of buildings. VSM has become aware that the now infamous “Makro” case is looking to be fought again by a consortium of Local Authorities based in the North West of the UK and The Public Sector Charity Trust is a perfect example of trying to bend the law too far. It was wound down after losing its legal case on its genuine occupation of over 2000 properties, in 240 local authorities around the UK, with subsequent bills owed adding up into the millions. It owed £1.6m to Liverpool City Council alone and brought attention to the industry and public media of the unethical and abusive methods of mitigating empty property rates.
At VSM we pride ourselves on being an ethical company. Not only are our methods sensitive to our clients requirements but we put our face and names in front of what we do. In the world of digital media, where snowballs become avalanches overnight, and with the property industry being an easy target, the last thing we want to do is employ a service that brings a client into disrepute or bring negative press.
Our work with charities such as Centric Community Projects (CCP) has enabled nearly 1000 charities around the UK to have employment space that they otherwise would not have been able. Typically, charities are entitled to an 80% relief in the business rates payable. VSM work closely with CCP, arranging many occupations for it across the UK taking umbrella leases to set up charity hubs, enabling charities such as British Heart Foundation, Scope, and Help for Heroes. CCP tends to take leases from 6-24 months and beyond. Following the termination of their lease, the landlord is entitled to a 100% relief for the following 3 months for commercial buildings, and 6 months for industrial buildings, as long as it remains vacant. A lease can be as little as 42 days and for when the situation is right VSM can arrange for occupations of such spaces by Atelier Art, a nationwide exhibitor of artwork in commercial spaces close to ideal customers.
We believe its as important to our clients than it is to our hearts to be ethical in this industry. Our fully trained administration and logistics team ensure that things are done right, and on time. We employ the word ‘management’ to its fullest extent in our services.
VSM Director Tony Rosenberg is the contact for any questions property owners may have on how to employ strategies to mitigate empty property rates.
VSM believe that Knowledge is Power.
Knowledge of the industry of the past and present helps us guide our clients to the future. This is our main USP to our clients.
Get In Touch
Please feel free to pick up the phone and call to speak directly with one of the partners or with the senior management team.
Vacant Space Management Ltd
335 South Row
Tel: 01908 660552