08 March 2016

As the current financial year draws to an end on the 31st of March, we can reflect upon the impact of the introduction of the net annual values (NAV) for non-domestic property introduced by the Land and Property Services (LPS) in April 2015.  The last major rates revaluation occurred in April 2003; consequently this twelve-year gap resulted in an uneven spread of rates collection throughout Northern Ireland leaving many occupiers facing a massive hike in their annual rates bill.  In some cases, ratings liabilities quadrupled overnight whilst approximately half of all non-domestic rate payers saw an increase in their rates liability.

Since the commencement of our affiliation with Hospitality Ulster, we have undertaken many appeals on behalf of clients and have had many successes with some businesses succeeding in reducing their rates liability by up to fifty per cent.   That said, the current Land and Property Service model for calculating a pub’s rates liability is based upon its fair maintainable trade or sustainable annual turnover by a hypothetical operator.  This basis of valuation doesn’t take account of a particular outlet’s profitability.  Moreover, pubs which are trading with an equal sales weighting of food and drink feel more aggrieved due to the cost and margins associated with serving food as opposed to pure beverage sales.  Admittedly, most pubs now sell food; however, there are some outlets which are more or less trading as a licensed restaurant with a liquor licence.  

Over the last year I understand the number of appeals lodged have fallen short of LPS’s expectations as many bill payers have accepted that their assessment is balanced based on the adopted model.  In some cases, operators who failed to submit a form of return have remained tight-lipped to avoid any further increase.   Clearly it is up to your rating advisor to provide guidance as to whether or not a challenge to your assessment is warranted.  A note of caution; make sure you seek proper advice because once an appeal is lodged the NAV can go up as well as down. In any case it is worth making sure that you have checked your assessment either way and remember that in order to have a rebate backdated to April 2015, you must lodge an appeal before the end of March 2016, however, there is no guarantee that your appeal will be successful.  

On a more positive note, conditions have continued to improve against a backdrop of continuing normalisation of the market with demand on the whole outweighing the supply of good licensed opportunities.  Willing sellers have returned and more favourable lending conditions are available for the right borrower and opportunity.  Osborne King has a number of pub opportunities for sale as well as liquor licences, which have also seen improvement in terms of value and demand. 2016 should see continued regularisation albeit accompanied by limited transactional opportunities hampered by the lack of supply.  

Mark Carron can be contacted on 028 90270016 or email

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