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Use of Empty Rates Relief for Commercial and Industrial Properties

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Dear Crawley Borough Council,

I would like to request responses to the following questions:

1) For how many commercial properties within Crawley have there been multiple applications for empty rates relief in the past three years with a time lapse of no less than approximately four and a half months between applications?

2) For how many industrial properties within Crawley have there been multiple applications for empty rates relief in the past three years with a time lapse of no less than approximately seven and a half months between applications?

3) What are the addresses of the properties covered by your answers to questions (1) and (2) above?

4) Who are the proprietors of the properties covered by your answers to questions (1) and (2) above?

5) For each proprietor covered by your response to question (4), what is their interest in the property (for example, freehold or leasehold)?

6) For each proprietor covered by your response to question (4), are they a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)?

7) If the applicants for empty rates relief for the properties covered by your answers to questions (1) and (2) above are not the proprietors of those properties, who are the applicants?

8) For each of the properties mentioned in your answers to the questions above, on what date did Crawley Borough Council receive the most recent application for empty rates relief, and was such relief granted?

Alternatively, if you already operate a publication scheme for any of the information requested above, please can you let me know where and how I can access this scheme in order to obtain that information? Of course, for any information requested above that is not part of a publication scheme, I would still like to receive that information from you by way of this Freedom of Information request.

I understand that certain landowners are exploiting a loophole in the Non-Domestic Rating (Unoccupied Property) (England) Regulations 2008 to avoid paying business rates for long periods of time while keeping their properties empty.

An empty commercial or industrial property will be exempt from paying business rates for a certain period of time. After three months (for a commercial property) or six months (for an industrial property) of being empty, the landowner must start paying business rates again.

I am aware that certain landowners will enter into a lease of at least six weeks at the end of this three or six month period with the sole intention of using this lease to avoid paying business rates for a further three or six months once the lease expires.

This is done to get around regulation 5 of the Non-Domestic Rating (Unoccupied Property) (England) Regulations 2008, according to which a lease of less than six weeks would not achieve this goal.

It is worth noting that, despite the six week lease, the property is likely to remain continuously empty by any reasonable definition of the word, as High Court case-law has found that simply installing Bluetooth apparatus into a premises is enough for that property to be “occupied”.

I trust there will be no issues regarding the ‘personal data’ exemption to disclosing information. I understand that ‘personal data’ is limited to data about identifiable living individuals and does not extend to information about companies or organisations. To the extent that the vast majority of answers you can provide to my questions above will relate to companies and organisations, I expect you will be able to disclose those answers without breaching your obligations under the Data Protection Act.

However, if you take the view that some of the requested information does constitute ‘personal data’, I trust you will be able to find a way of processing it fairly and lawfully such that you are able to fulfil your duties under the Data Protection Principles. I implore you to find a way of doing so, especially given the public interest in disclosing this information, given its importance to the public discussion on issues such as tax avoidance, homelessness and property speculation. Such importance was recently recognised by Judge Fiona Henderson, who noted in the context of a freedom of information case brought against Camden London Borough Council that “the public interest lies in putting empty properties back into use” and who thereby ordered the disclosure of certain information that would facilitate this. It is suggested that the information requested herein would also facilitate this, by contributing to the public discussion on properties that remain empty and hopefully driving forward public policy proposals that would bring such properties back into use.

Yours faithfully,

L Jones

Freedom Of Information, Crawley Borough Council

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your request for information which is being considered under the Freedom of Information Act.

You should receive the information requested within 20 working days unless the Council does not hold the information or if there is a reason for it to be withheld.

Please remember to quote the above FOI reference number in any future communications.

Kind regards,

Freedom of Information

FOI: 5857

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Freedom Of Information, Crawley Borough Council

 

 

Dear Sir/Madam,

 

Please see below and the attached for Crawley Borough Council’s response.

 

Regards,

 

Gillian Edwards

Audit and Risk Manager

01293 438384

 

FOI request No: 5857

 

 

Dear Crawley Borough Council,

 

I would like to request responses to the following questions:

 

1) For how many commercial properties within Crawley have there been
multiple applications for empty rates relief in the past three years with
a time lapse of no less than approximately four and a half months between
applications?  

Crawley Borough Council Response

45

 

2) For how many industrial properties within Crawley have there been
multiple applications for empty rates relief in the past three years with
a time lapse of no less than approximately seven and a half months between
applications?

Crawley Borough Council Response

8

 

3) What are the addresses of the properties covered by your answers to
questions (1) and (2) above? 

Crawley Borough Council Response

See attached Spreadsheet.

 

4) Who are the proprietors of the properties covered by your answers to
questions (1) and (2) above?

Crawley Borough Council Response

See attached Spreadsheet.

 

5) For each proprietor covered by your response to question (4), what is
their interest in the property (for example, freehold or leasehold)? 

Crawley Borough Council Response

The person liable to pay empty rates is the owner defined in legislation
as the person/company entitled to possession. We do not seek to establish
the basis of their possession as it does not matter whether they are the
owners or leaseholders.

 

6) For each proprietor covered by your response to question (4), are they
a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)? 

Crawley Borough Council Response

The person liable to pay empty rates is the owner defined in legislation
as the person/company entitled to possession. We do not seek to establish
the basis of their possession and whether they are a REIT.

 

7) If the applicants for empty rates relief for the properties covered by
your answers to questions (1) and (2) above are not the proprietors of
those properties, who are the applicants?

Crawley Borough Council Response

This information is not recorded on the reportable database used for
billing and may come from various sources in our correspondence files. The
notifier of the empty status is usually the proprietor or an agent
instructed to act on his behalf.

It has been estimated that to locate, retrieve and extract this
information would exceed the “Appropriate Limit” set out in the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.  This is because we do not hold this information in
a reportable format and to produce this will exceed 18 hours of work.

Section 12 (1) of the Act states that a public authority is not obliged to
comply with a request for information if the authority estimates the cost
of complying with the request would exceed the “appropriate limit”.  For
the Council, the “appropriate limit” is up to 18 hours of work, or £450 
at £25 an hour, on one request.  This information is set out in the
Freedom of Information (Fees & Appropriate Limit) Regulations 2004.

 

8) For each of the properties mentioned in your answers to the questions
above, on what date did Crawley Borough Council receive the most recent
application for empty rates relief, and was such relief granted?

Crawley Borough Council Response

We do not apply relief where it appears that the information provided is
false or non-verifiable and we would seek to inspect and monitor
unoccupied properties on a regular basis. Supportive evidence is usually
sought if the application is substantially retrospective. The information
on the date of last claim is not recorded on the reportable database used
for billing and may have come from various sources in our correspondence
files. In most cases the claim will have been on or around the last date
of exemption shown on the attached spread sheet.

It has been estimated that to locate, retrieve and extract this
information would exceed the “Appropriate Limit” set out in the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.  This is because we do not hold this information in
a reportable format and to produce this will exceed 18 hours of work.

Section 12 (1) of the Act states that a public authority is not obliged to
comply with a request for information if the authority estimates the cost
of complying with the request would exceed the “appropriate limit”.  For
the Council, the “appropriate limit” is up to 18 hours of work, or £450 
at £25 an hour, on one request.  This information is set out in the
Freedom of Information (Fees & Appropriate Limit) Regulations 2004.

 

Furthermore, you have the right of appeal against the decision.  If you
wish to appeal please set out in writing your grounds of appeal and send
by email also to:

 

[1][email address]

 

Your appeal will be investigated by the Head of Legal & Democratic
Services.

Should you still be dissatisfied with the outcome of any such complaint
you have the right to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner,
pursuant to section 50 of the FOIA.  The contact details are:

Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Tel: 0303 123 1113 or 01625 54 57 45
Fax: 01625 524510
Web: [2][2]www.ico.gov.uk

 

 

 

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.ico.gov.uk/

Dear Gillian Edwards,

Thank you for your response to my Freedom of Information request.

Unfortunately I could not see any spreadsheet attached to your email.

Please may you send me another copy of that spreadsheet?

Yours sincerely,

L Jones

Freedom Of Information, Crawley Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Sir/Madam,

 

Please see below and the attached for Crawley Borough Council’s response.

 

Regards,

 

Gillian Edwards

Audit and Risk Manager

01293 438384

 

FOI request No: 5857

 

 

Dear Crawley Borough Council,

 

I would like to request responses to the following questions:

 

1) For how many commercial properties within Crawley have there been
multiple applications for empty rates relief in the past three years with
a time lapse of no less than approximately four and a half months between
applications?  

Crawley Borough Council Response

45

 

2) For how many industrial properties within Crawley have there been
multiple applications for empty rates relief in the past three years with
a time lapse of no less than approximately seven and a half months between
applications?

Crawley Borough Council Response

8

 

3) What are the addresses of the properties covered by your answers to
questions (1) and (2) above? 

Crawley Borough Council Response

See attached Spreadsheet.

 

4) Who are the proprietors of the properties covered by your answers to
questions (1) and (2) above?

Crawley Borough Council Response

See attached Spreadsheet.

 

5) For each proprietor covered by your response to question (4), what is
their interest in the property (for example, freehold or leasehold)? 

Crawley Borough Council Response

The person liable to pay empty rates is the owner defined in legislation
as the person/company entitled to possession. We do not seek to establish
the basis of their possession as it does not matter whether they are the
owners or leaseholders.

 

6) For each proprietor covered by your response to question (4), are they
a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT)? 

Crawley Borough Council Response

The person liable to pay empty rates is the owner defined in legislation
as the person/company entitled to possession. We do not seek to establish
the basis of their possession and whether they are a REIT.

 

7) If the applicants for empty rates relief for the properties covered by
your answers to questions (1) and (2) above are not the proprietors of
those properties, who are the applicants?

Crawley Borough Council Response

This information is not recorded on the reportable database used for
billing and may come from various sources in our correspondence files. The
notifier of the empty status is usually the proprietor or an agent
instructed to act on his behalf.

It has been estimated that to locate, retrieve and extract this
information would exceed the “Appropriate Limit” set out in the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.  This is because we do not hold this information in
a reportable format and to produce this will exceed 18 hours of work.

Section 12 (1) of the Act states that a public authority is not obliged to
comply with a request for information if the authority estimates the cost
of complying with the request would exceed the “appropriate limit”.  For
the Council, the “appropriate limit” is up to 18 hours of work, or £450 
at £25 an hour, on one request.  This information is set out in the
Freedom of Information (Fees & Appropriate Limit) Regulations 2004.

 

8) For each of the properties mentioned in your answers to the questions
above, on what date did Crawley Borough Council receive the most recent
application for empty rates relief, and was such relief granted?

Crawley Borough Council Response

We do not apply relief where it appears that the information provided is
false or non-verifiable and we would seek to inspect and monitor
unoccupied properties on a regular basis. Supportive evidence is usually
sought if the application is substantially retrospective. The information
on the date of last claim is not recorded on the reportable database used
for billing and may have come from various sources in our correspondence
files. In most cases the claim will have been on or around the last date
of exemption shown on the attached spread sheet.

It has been estimated that to locate, retrieve and extract this
information would exceed the “Appropriate Limit” set out in the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.  This is because we do not hold this information in
a reportable format and to produce this will exceed 18 hours of work.

Section 12 (1) of the Act states that a public authority is not obliged to
comply with a request for information if the authority estimates the cost
of complying with the request would exceed the “appropriate limit”.  For
the Council, the “appropriate limit” is up to 18 hours of work, or £450 
at £25 an hour, on one request.  This information is set out in the
Freedom of Information (Fees & Appropriate Limit) Regulations 2004.

 

Furthermore, you have the right of appeal against the decision.  If you
wish to appeal please set out in writing your grounds of appeal and send
by email also to:

 

[1][email address]

 

Your appeal will be investigated by the Head of Legal & Democratic
Services.

Should you still be dissatisfied with the outcome of any such complaint
you have the right to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner,
pursuant to section 50 of the FOIA.  The contact details are:

Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Tel: 0303 123 1113 or 01625 54 57 45
Fax: 01625 524510
Web: [2][2]www.ico.gov.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.ico.gov.uk/

We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are L Jones please sign in and let everyone know.

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