Following the decision in Makro Properties Limited and another v Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council 2012 the High Court has established that an “intermittent” occupation will mean that a slight use of the property will defeat any refusal by a Local Authority to grant empty rates relief each time a property falls empty after a period of intermittent occupation.
Presently, commercial property qualifies for 100% business rates relief for the first three months after falling empty (that period is extended to six months in respect of industrial property) but after that business rates are payable in full.
However, if the property is occupied for more than a six week period before falling empty again then a further three months relief applies.
There appears to be no limit as to how many times this can be done.
In the Makro case the tenant only occupied 0.2% of the floor space of the premises but this was sufficient to attract rating liability. Makro could show that storage amounted to actual occupation which was exclusive to them and it was also of value to them.
Therefore even slight use of the property, as in this case, may now be sufficient so that business rate payers can organise their affairs so as to mitigate rates payable including using schemes for intermittent occupation in order to do so.