Retailers have had their rates appeals unfairly denied due to small technicalities, according to two leading property court judges.
During a recent Upper Tribunal case lodged by Colliers International, senior judges Sir David Holgate and Martin Rodger said the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) and the Valuation Tribunal for England (VTE) had used minor application errors to dismiss appeals that may otherwise have been successful.
The ruling relates to the more than 200,000 appeals of 2010 rates re-evaluations that were struck off before reaching the tribunal stage. Colliers International’s head of business rating John Webber said that in many of these cases the VOA and VTE: “colluded to keep appeals out of a fair hearing.”
The court judgement said that the VTE: “must now review its processes and ensure that it follows its own rules, and must avoid adopting an in-discriminate zero tolerance approach.”
It added that rule compliance: “should never be allowed to assume a greater importance than doing justice in each case.”
Webber said the approach discriminated against “Those without the resources to navigate their way through a complicated and highly technical procedure,” such as “small businesses and struggling retailers.”
VTE CEO Antonio Massella told Retail Express that the documents used in these cases were revised and updated in April 2017.
He added: “The judgment actually encourages the Valuation Tribunal to continue to be robust but to consider the three stages of the Denton test in determining the appropriate sanction to be applied in striking out appeals.”
The Denton test requires tribunals to not impose sanctions on an appellant unless the error was “serious or significant.”
While the cases relate to the appeals system for 2010 revaluations, retailers in England have also reported severe problems with the system for appealing 2017 revaluated rates as well.
Do it: Have you been unfairly treated while appealing your business rates? Call the Retail Express team on 020 7689 3371 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story.