The rating division of property consultancy CB Richard Ellis is warning Yorkshire businesses of important changes to the rating appeal process which it says could hinder their chances of winning an appeal.
The changes by the Valuation Tribunal for England (VTE) on January 1 relate to the way information is disclosed and exchanged prior to a hearing, known as the statement of case.
Any business occupying commercial premises is liable for rates. The rateable value is an estimate of its rental value and businesses are charged a percentage fixed by the government.
Businesses wishing to appeal against the charges allocated to their premises have one chance to lodge an appeal against this value.
The Valuation Officer deals with appeals by placing them in an appeal programme, which specifies a period within which discussions can take place with appellants. However, if discussions do not lead to settlement then the VTE's procedures take over, a tribunal hearing date is assigned and, within four weeks of the hearing, a statement of case has to be prepared by the appellant.
If the statement of case is not prepared within four weeks of the hearing, or is compiled incorrectly, businesses could have their appeal struck out by the VTE and will lose their appeal rights as it is not possible to re-appeal on the same grounds.
Nick Marsden, from CBRE's lease consultancy and rating team, said: "The new procedures are intended to streamline the VTE service so that only appeals which are genuinely in dispute and have been properly prepared end up before the Tribunal. However, it does make it more difficult for ratepayers to access justice through their own efforts. It becomes more expensive to the ratepayer and will perhaps bring an end to a ratepayer's day in court."
He added: "The Valuation Office will begin programming appeals against the 2010 Rating List shortly. The VTE's strike out policy means it has perhaps never been more important for ratepayers in the region to seek professional advice from a reputable rating specialist in order to protect their interests. Businesses need to be aware that these new processes exist so that they can seek advice accordingly."
The VTE is the judicial arm of the Valuation Tribunal. It was launched in October 2009, replacing 56 valuation tribunals, and was established by the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007.