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What Does ‘Ground Floor’ Mean? Tribunal Considers

In a decision of interest to property professionals and commercial tenants, a tribunal has ruled that a shop which was only accessible by a steep flight of steps from the street was nevertheless on the ground floor for the purposes of calculating non-domestic rates bills payable on the premises.

The shop sold a range of surfing gear, skateboards, sunglasses and other items from a seafront location in the famously hilly resort of St Ives, Cornwall. A council valuation officer decided that the premises had a rateable value of £11,250 but the shop’s tenant contended for a figure of under £7,000.

The tenant pointed to lower rates paid by first-floor shops in the town and argued that his premises should have been counted amongst them on the basis that they could only be accessed via a flight of seven steps. However, the Upper Tribunal (UT) found that the premises were clearly a ground-floor shop. The valuation officer’s decision was also in line with the shop’s £13,000-a-year rent and the £5,000 premium which the tenant had paid to take over the lease.