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Rates Ruling Promises Savings for Housing Estate Landlords

Council housingIn a decision which is likely to result in substantial savings for housing estate landlords, the Upper Tribunal (UT) has ruled that a concierge room within the curtilage  (the legal term for a property as a whole)of a residential development is exempt from non-domestic rates. Notwithstanding its use as an office by estate managers, the room was ‘appurtenant to the otherwise wholly residential occupation’ of the estate within the meaning of section 66(1) of the Local Government Finance Act 1988.

The freehold owner of the estate, which comprises 15 homes, had appealed against the determination of a valuation officer (VO) that the concierge room should be rated as commercial premises. At first instance, the Valuation Tribunal for England accepted the VO’s arguments that the room was occupied by managing agents for the purposes of their business and could not be viewed as appurtenant to any of the individual houses.

In allowing the freeholder’s appeal, the UT ruled that, although each of the houses was set within its own curtilage, the development should be viewed as a whole and that the concierge room was as intrinsic a part of the estate as its vehicular access ramp, plant room and communal gardens.

The estate was a coherent whole and, in circumstances where the freeholder had complete control over the supervisory and other activities carried on within the concierge room, it was correctly viewed as an ‘other appurtenance’ to property used wholly for the purposes of living accommodation.