Commercial Rates Refund System
A petition for change
Rates must be paid by commercial property occupiers each year for services provided by the local authority. However, if a property is vacant on the date the annual rate is struck then the rate payer, who is usually the owner if the property is vacant, is entitled to a rates refund.
To qualify, the rates must be paid in full to the council and the owner must have supporting evidence that the property is either on the market to let or is undergoing refurbishment.
If vacant and available to let, this proof must be in the form of press advertisements, evidence of a signboard on the building and/or details of the rent sought.
If it is undergoing refurbishment then a statement from the contractor detailing the time frame of the works in addition to copies of estimates and receipts as required. If this evidence cannot be produced, or if the property is for sale rather than to let, then no vacancy refund applies.
The annual rate is usually struck in the opening months of the year. If a property is occupied at that time then it is liable to full rates for that calendar year. There are no exceptions. Even where occupation of the property is on a temporary basis, for example a calendar or book retailer taking space for the Christmas period, no refund applies. If the property is vacated a day after the rate is struck, the property owner must pay full rates for that year.
If the property is located in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick or Waterford, then only 50% of the rates liability is refundable, even if all the conditions for a refund are met. This is in contrast to the rest of the country where 100% of the rates liability is refundable.
In all the above ways the current vacancy rates refund system is unfair and unreasonable, particularly in light of the pressures that are on all property owners at present. We believe that 'fair play' is required and a new more flexible approach must be adopted by local authorities where properties are vacant.
The Lisney petition is appealing to the government to implement the following changes:
- In all local authority areas, make the vacancy rates refund available on a monthly pro-rata basis for all periods during the year where the property remains vacant.
- Extend the eligibility to vacant properties that are 'for sale'.
- Bring the city areas in line with all other areas. Abolish the 50% refund restriction and allow a 100% refund for those with vacant commercial properties in the city council administrative areas of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.
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