A PROPERTY consultancy in West Yorkshire has called for tougher action against “rogue business rate selling techniques”.
Lambert Smith Hampton has heavily criticised the “underhand sales techniques” of several commercial property rating firms.
Business rates are a charge on the use and occupation of non-domestic buildings and since 2008 the government has also charged owners where buildings are empty at full value.
The rateable value, which drives liability for business premises, is an opinion of rental value which the ratepayer can challenge through the statutory appeals regime in England and Wales.
As a result of this, a growing number of commercial property rating firms are offering their services to owners to secure a rates reduction on their behalf.
Richard Wackett, head of rating at LSH, said: “Business rates are one of the largest outgoings for owners and in recent years some unscrupulous firms have exploited this by saturating the appeals regime with a combination of misleading sales techniques and outright misrepresentation of the facts.
“Although most rating operators will offer a genuine no win: no fee service to clients, the system is open to abuse so the unwitting ratepayer needs to be able to discriminate between the proper professional service and the scatter gun approach of the cowboy operator.
“Rogue firms may charge as much as 50% meaning their clients see very little improvement in their business rates liability if any saving is achieved.”
Mr Wackett said: “My advice is to never pay anything upfront and be sure that the percentage of any reduction, which will be claimed as a fee, is made very clear.
“Some cowboy consultants will even go on to make appeals that end up costing their client rather than achieving a saving.”