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COMMERCIAL PROPERTY NEWS – January/February 2018

2017 saw an unprecedented volume of new property law, with rating leading the way with the new Check, Challenge and Appeal system, which is so complex that almost 12 months after the new system was introduced, only one appeal has reached the Valuation Tribunal as an appeal and even that has stalled as the ratepayer omitted to pay the appeal fee to the Valuation Tribunal!  The rating world also saw a new transitional system introduced in England, even more complex than its two predecessors, alongside a complex system of reliefs and a growing number of rates surcharges adding to the complexity.  How any ratepayer is meant to be able to work out whether a rates bill is correct or not is a mystery!  In Wales they sensibly decided not to introduce the new Check, Challenge and Appeal system and there is no transitional system.  If only we had more appeals in Wales than the two we are currently instructed on!


The Courts were also busy in 2017, with another break notice case hitting the headlines.  This saw the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government take on and win against South Essex College, who had a lease with a break option exercisable in 2012 conditional upon there being no rent arrears and the tenant giving vacant possession on the break date.  Unfortunately, the tenant omitted to remove some internal demountable partitioning and left behind some old furniture and chattels and forgot to return keys to the landlord and provide alarm codes, which was sufficient for the Court to decide it had not given vacant possession and the break was ineffective.  This should be a salutary lesson to all tenants as it is not unusual for tenants to depart leaving minor alterations in situ and rubbish behind.  The Courts also appeared to make a new ruling on a lease renewal case in Jermyn Street, London, where the landlord claimed he wanted to redevelop and opposed the grant of a new lease.  The tenant argued that the landlord’s proposed works were contrived merely to evict the tenant.  The Court said the landlord’s motive for doing the works was irrelevant and as the works were substantial and sufficient to require possession of the holding, it had no option but to refuse a new tenancy.  For 2018, we already have the prospect of new MEES regulations coming in from March 2018, after which time it may be unlawful to let a commercial property with an energy rating of F or G.  There is also new regulations being introduced for the abolition of the staircase tax for rates and the prospect of rates refunds for everyone affected, which will be good!