Business Rates: Improvement Relief
The occupation condition
The occupation condition requires that, in the period since the qualifying works commenced, the property has remained occupied and the ratepayer has not changed. This means that the same ratepayer must have remained in occupation throughout the period in which the works were undertaken and during the period of relief following completion. It includes scenarios where a landlord makes improvements and the occupying ratepayer does not change, given that the ratepayer is likely to face higher overall rental costs as a result.
This condition allows the billing authority to "lift the corporate veil" such that, for example, changes in occupation between subsidiaries of the same group would not in itself invalidate eligibility for improvement relief. Where there has been a split or merger since the qualifying improvement works commenced, the requirement for continuous occupation by the same person applies to predecessor hereditaments.
The period of relief ends 12 months after completion of the qualifying works, unless the eligible ratepayer vacates the property at an earlier date. In that case, the occupation condition ceases to be met. Entitlement to relief cannot be restored in respect of the same qualifying improvement works if the property is subsequently reoccupied, even if by the same person. Billing authorities will need to be satisfied that the occupation condition is met before awarding relief.