Press Releases

28 Sep 2023

BPF calls for empty rates relief to be extended to 12 months

  • New analysis of over 1,000 retail locations shows just 9% of empty shops reoccupied within 6-months
  • Current 3-month rates empty property relief not sufficient for property owners to re-let vacant space
  • Call comes in response to Government consultation on empty rates avoidance

Business rates - The British Property Federation (“BPF”) has called on the Government to urgently extend the period of business rates relief for empty properties from 3 months to 12 months and reintroduce a 50% rate cut for long-term empty stores, following new analysis into shop vacancy.  

Currently owners of vacant shops have a 3-month exemption from business rates to allow time to upgrade stores as necessary and re-let to them to a new tenant.

However, new research undertaken with Local Data Company highlights that far more time is needed to find a new tenant and re-let empty shops.   Analysis of 1,035 retail locations, including high streets, shopping centres and retail parks comprising more than 124,000 individual shops,  shows that over  the last two years less than 1 in 10 (9%) of empty units have been re-let within 6 months. Almost a third (31%) of empty shops took more than two years to be reoccupied.

The data shows a regional disparity across the UK, with just 4% of empty stores in Yorkshire re-let in six months, along with 5% in the East Midlands and North East, compared to 13% in the South West and Greater London. The data shows that re-letting empty stores is challenging across all location types, with 9.9% of high street stores reoccupied in six months, compared to 7.5% at shopping centres and 10.3% at retail parks.

The data on retail property vacancy is included as part of the BPF’s  response to an HM Treasury consultation on Empty Rates Avoidance and Evasion, which closes  on 28 September. In its evidence the BPF points out that  the current system of empty rates is fundamentally unfair to property owners who can face a high rates liability on premises without any rental income.

Melanie Leech, Chief Executive, British Property Federation, said:  “Government should be doing everything it can to support the property owners whose investment will be critical to revitalising our high streets and town centres.

“Our analysis shows that less than one in ten empty shops is re-occupied within six months and almost a third lie empty for more than two years, making the current 3-month empty rates relief completely out of step with today’s market conditions.  

“We recognise that business rates generate vital income for local authorities, but it is simply not sustainable for property owners to shoulder this tax burden when there is no tenant or income on a unit.  This is effectively kicking someone while they are down, and only adds to the challenge of upgrading and repurposing older stores and attracting new businesses.

“If the Government is serious about supporting high streets and town centres it must extend the period of business rates relief for empty shops and other commercial units in line with the evidence, and reintroduce a 50% reduction thereafter.”

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