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Un-“reasonable, professional judgment”: wrong turn by the DCLG on assessing rateable values

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Summary: New rules on rating appeals create uncertainty and will leave ratepayers paying too much. The Department for Communities and Local Government (“DCLG”) is overhauling the system for challenging rates assessments. The changes will apply to the new rateable values that start on 1 April 2017. One change should be of concern to all ratepayers. Appeals will be allowed only where the valuation was beyond “reasonable professional judgment”.

The DCLG is consulting on the draft regulations to change the rules for rating appeals. Currently a ratepayer who wishes to challenge a rateable value proposes an alteration to the list. If the proposal is not agreed by the Valuation Officer (“VO”), or a compromise reached, the decision may be appealed to the valuation tribunal (“VTE”).

Disputes regarding rateable values appearing in the 1 April 2017 list will be subject to the new procedure, known as “check challenge appeal”. The provisions are causing consternation amongst ratepayers and the specialists who advise them.

This note comments on one final indignity for ratepayers who are able to overcome the obstacles of “check” and “challenge” and have their assessment tested on an appeal.

The proposals include a fundamental change in the power of the VTE to allow a ratepayer’s appeal.

It will not be enough to show that the VO got the rateable value wrong. The number under appeal will have to be outside the range of "reasonable professional judgement". Unfortunately, it is not clear what this phrase means since no definition has been provided.

We understand that DCLG is reflecting on the wording.

Property industry bodies and surveyors are lobbying against this change.

If introduced, this change will leave many ratepayers paying too much with no recourse to appeal: certainly one decision which needs to be checked, challenged and appealed…

For more information or to find out how you can help, please contact me at Roger.Cohen@blplaw.com

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