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Hi all,

 

 

I wonder if there is anyone that could advise me in a pressing matter.

 

 

Below are the details:

 

 

Myself and two others held a lease for a commercial property between June 2012 to June 2017.

 

 

In 2015 upon the breakdown of the business we had agreed with the landlord to surrender the lease and hand back the keys. The keys were handed back amicably however we were foolish in not signing any documents and neither was any provided or suggested. Until this time all business rates had been paid and settled.

 

 

In the last two weeks a letter was received at my parental home (where i resided at the time but have not been for the last few years) about a liability order that had been at the Mags Court.

 

 

This letter was handed to me via a family member and this is the first instance were i learnt about any of this issue. I immediately called the local council and told them the facts who had informed me that the landlord had informed them that we were liable for the business rate payments for the period of August 2015 until June 2017 (beginning the the circa when the keys were handed back and end of the original lease)

 

 

I advised the council that the lease was surrendered upon agreement with the landlord and there was no paperwork besdies WhatsApp messages providing undoubtable proof that there was an agreement and the keys were given back to such extent the landlord requested the keys so that he could put it back on the market.

 

 

I sent the council copies of the WhatsApp messages to review and explained the circumstances. They did not respond to this.

 

 

Earlier this week, a family member called me to inform me that an Enforcement Agent had visited my parental address looking for me. The Enforcement Agent was informed that i do not live at the address - he spoke to a 15 year old 'minor' and left some correspondence.

 

 

I was supplied with this Enforcement Notice and proceeded to call the Agent informing him that i did not reside at that address and asked him why he had spoken to a child to which he replied he was not aware and then claimed that this is the address that they have. I complained and asked him why a sensitive piece of correspondence was left in the knowledge that i did not reside there and i currently have no fixed abode. I also questioned him on their registration with the Information Commissioner (i am a Data Protection expert) and noticed that the company Onesource was not registered and in a number of places are non-compliant with Data Protection regs - he immediately hung up.

 

 

I proceeded to contact the business rate team and asked them if they had reviewed the WhatsApp messages to which they replied they had not but would not review them as they do not think it is sufficient but asked me to speak to the landlord and get some documentation.

 

 

Having spoken to the landlord he refused to acknowledge that we had agreed to terminate the lease and would not speak further. However, upon reading 'implied surrender' there is no doubt that the nature of the messages provide outline that 'the agreement is inconsistent with the continuation of the lease' as such there is an 'implied surrender'.

 

 

I again messaged the council and asked them review the messages as there is no prescribed method for an 'implied surrender' if they are not able to do so then they should escalate. This is all in addition to a notice to the Information Commisioner with regards to the data processing activities which are non-compliant and subject to substantial fines.

 

 

My family members at my parental home (whom i have little contact besides a younger family member) are as far as i am aware working on a Statutory Declartion to advise the council and enforcment agent of my non-residence.

 

 

I did not receive any correspondence from the council or courts as i do not live at the address and any that was sent there was likely returned or destroyed - i do not know. I have tenancy agreements for residences that i resided over the last few years but do not want to provide them. As mentioned at this time, i am living with some friends and couch surfing whilst i find a place to rent.

 

 

I have not assets or cars or anything of substantial value - not even a TV in my name.

 

 

Additionally, I am no longer in touch with my business partners and do not know exactly where they live. They only have my address.

 

 

The business was run under a Ltd company (now dissolved) but the lease and business rate were in individual names.

 

 

Is there a way to appeal to the courts? or the council? What are my options?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would appreciate any advise you can give me.

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Why did you not inform the Council you had surrendered your lease ?

 

You should have notified the council when you left. Unfortunately the liability for business rates on an empty premises falls on the person legally entitled to its possession .... under an ongoing lease. I suspect that the council are treating you as the ongoing leaseholder and ignoring the fact that the landlord (or a new occupant) took possession. You will need to provide evidence that you not only quit the property but that the lease ended.

 

The new regime provides that from 1 April 2008 in England and Wales, full rates are payable on empty business properties once initial exemption periods have expired. The exemption period for office and retail premises is 3 months and for industrial and warehouse premises it is now 6 months.

 

Current exemptions and relief

 

An owner of unoccupied premises is exempt from business rates where the premises have a rateable value of less than £15,000. Following the Budget 2010, this relief was extended for a further year and the threshold was raised from £15,000 to £18,000, to help alleviate the effects of the economic downturn on small businesses.

 

Empty non-domestic premises of any value are exempt from business rates for a period of three months (6 months in the case of industrial premises).

 

Companies in administration are exempt from business rates in respect of empty premises for the duration of the administration, adding to the pre-existing exemption for companies in liquidation.

 

Charities and community amateur sports clubs qualify for permanent 100% relief from business rates for their empty properties. Previously, they were liable to pay 10% of the full rates or a lesser percentage at the local authority’s discretion.

 

Andy


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Thank you Andy.

 

 

As mentioned it was a foolish thing to do. Its no excuse but the business was the first i entered and i was young and had little knowledge. The landlord at the time was completely fine with us surrednering the lease and understood the situation although it appears he has not changed his mind in the absence of a 'deed of surrender'. Like i said i only have 'WhatsApp' messages but besdies that there is nothing else. I claimed back from money from the council for overpayment at the time as well and have sent them a copy of the correspodence in case that provided some indication of notice but they disagree.

 

 

The rateable value as it currently stands is £9,900. Does that help at all?

 

 

Secondly, we were given small business rates relief at the time so we were paying circa £1100 per year. If they were to change the liability to this amount the total would be around £3.5-4k and i could probably bite the bullet and just pay it off.

 

 

As the rateable value is is less than £15k - do i have a case in disputing it on that basis as it being exempt as it was unoccupied?

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You have to prove liability first...which may be difficult as already advised as liability for business rates on an empty premises falls on the person legally entitled to its possession .... under an ongoing lease.

 

Edit....commercial property between June 2012 to June 2017.

 

You surrendered in 2015

 

Best way forward is to try and stay the execution and ask for reduction due exemptions and relief


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There was just a little under 24 months left.

 

 

I believe the property would have been subject to small business rates relief. At the time of the lease the rateable value was £7900.

 

 

Would they backdate the outstanding dues and apply small business rates relief? From what i am reading it should have been exempt totally, anyway?

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Possibly but you need to talk to your LA with regards this and get them to call off the dogs......as its in dispute.You may have to submit an N245 to stay execution in the meantime.

 

The Council will advise.


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Possibly but you need to talk to your LA with regards this and get them to call off the dogs......as its in dispute.You may have to submit an N245 to stay execution in the meantime.

 

The Council will advise.

 

Sorry Andy but a Liability Order does not come under County Court rules and accordingly, an N245 is not an option. If it were, I suspect that the courts would be inundated with such applications.

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I was supplied with this Enforcement Notice and proceeded to call the Agent informing him that i did not reside at that address and asked him why he had spoken to a child to which he replied he was not aware and then claimed that this is the address that they have. I complained and asked him why a sensitive piece of correspondence was left in the knowledge that i did not reside there and i currently have no fixed abode.

 

I also questioned him on their registration with the Information Commissioner (i am a Data Protection expert) and noticed that the company Onesource was not registered and in a number of places are non-compliant with Data Protection regs - he immediately hung up.

 

Your energy would be best served in dealing with the problems regarding the lease and the Liability Order instead of trying to explore 'loopholes'. Just so that you are aware, One Source is effectively a local authorities 'in house' enforcement team. The difference between this 'in house' operation and others is that they share their 'back office' services with three local authorities, (Newham, Havering and Bexley). As such, for ICO purposes, the Data Controller would be the local authority.

 

In relation to the address that was visited, is this the same address known to the council when the lease was entered into?

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Earlier this week, a family member called me to inform me that an Enforcement Agent had visited my parental address looking for me. The Enforcement Agent was informed that i do not live at the address - he spoke to a 15 year old 'minor' and left some correspondence.

 

I was supplied with this Enforcement Notice and proceeded to call the Agent informing him that i did not reside at that address and asked him why he had spoken to a child to which he replied he was not aware.

 

In relation to your complaint that the enforcement agent 'spoke to a 15 year old', the following is taken from the Taking Control of Goods National Standards:

 

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/353396/taking-control-of-goods-national-standards.pdf

 

 

72. Enforcement agents must withdraw from domestic premises if the only person present is, or appears to be, under the age of 16 or is deemed to be vulnerable by the enforcement agent;..........they can ask when the debtor will be home - if appropriate.

 

73. Enforcement agents must withdraw without making enquiries if the only persons present are children who appear to be under the age of 12.

 

As you will observe, if the child appears to be under the age of 12....and is the ONLY person present, the enforcement agent must not make any enquiries and must withdraw from the premises. The same conditions do not apply if the ONLY person present appears to be under the age of 16.

 

If under 16, the enforcement agent may make 'enquiries' such as asking the child when the debtor may be home.

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The rateable value as it currently stands is £9,900. Does that help at all?

 

Secondly, we were given small business rates relief at the time so we were paying circa £1100 per year. If they were to change the liability to this amount the total would be around £3.5-4k and i could probably bite the bullet and just pay it off.

 

My personal opinion is that unless you can find out whether the premises have been occupied by anybody else since the date when you handed back the keys, you could struggle. I say this because the landlord is denying that the lease has ended.

 

A google search of the address and postcode may reveal the existence of another being in occupation during the period 2015 to 2017 and is worth a try.

 

Another tip would be to view the property details on the Valuation Office website to see whether an application has been made to reduce the rateable value.

https://www.gov.uk/correct-your-business-rates

 

An application for small business rate relief needs to be made EACH year. It is not automatically 'rolled' over each year. Given that you had previous been granted relief, I would suspect that the local authority would look sympathetically at backdating and it would be fair of them to do so.

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