Business rates (also known as Non-Domestic Rates) are payable on most non-domestic (commercial) properties such as shops, offices, warehouses, industrial units, advertising rights, land used for storage and other commercial purposes.

In addition, any part of a property used for commercial rather than domestic purposes may be rateable (for example, a small office attached to a house). Rates are payable on most occupied and some unoccupied (empty) properties.

Business Rates legislation states that the person entitled to possession of a property is liable to pay business rates charges. The person entitled to possession will usually be the leaseholder or the owner of the property.

Occupied property

In the case of occupied property, the person or company occupying it is liable to pay the rate.

Sometimes a landlord may charge an occupier a rent which is inclusive of rates. Even in these cases the occupier is still the person liable for payment, and the bill is sent in his/her name.

If you have a business agreement with a third party (such as your landlord) to pay your rates, you are still responsible for payment.

If the Business Rates Team is required to take recovery action for non-payment of rates, then legal proceedings will be taken against you and not the third party.

What is 'occupation'?

'Occupation' means occupation by goods or stock. Your occupied rate charge will start on the date you move goods into the premises, not the date you open for business.

A person or company occupying a non-domestic property should pay full rates unless they qualify for business rates relief.

Unoccupied property

All unoccupied properties are subject to business rates charges unless a business rates relief applies.

In cases where empty business rates are due, the person or company entitled to possession will be liable for the empty charge.

Business rates will not be payable in the first three months that a property is empty. This is extended to six months in the case of certain industrial properties.

After this period rates are payable in full unless the unoccupied property rate has been reduced by the Government by order. In most cases the unoccupied property rate is zero for properties owned by charities and community amateur sports clubs.

In addition, there are a number of exemptions from the unoccupied property rate. Full details on exemptions can be obtained from the Council. If the unoccupied property rate for the financial year has been reduced by order, it will be shown on the front of your bill.

The Government has introduced a new temporary measure for unoccupied new builds from October 2013. Unoccupied new builds will be exempt from unoccupied property rates for up to 18 months (up to state aid limits) where the property comes on to the list between 1 October 2013 and 30 September 2016.

The 18 month period includes the initial 3 or 6 month exemption and so properties may, if unoccupied, be exempt from nondomestic rates for up to an extra 15 or 12 months. If you qualify, this will be automatically applied to your account.