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Completion Notices – New Regulations on Refurbished Buildings

The Non-Domestic Rating Bill 2023 brings one critical change to how and where a Local Authority can serve a Completion Notice. A Completion Notice is served by a Local Authority to bring a new or refurbished property into the rating list where it is not capable of immediate rateable occupation. They would typically be served by the Local Authority at the point at which a new development, redevelopment or refurbishment scheme reaches Practical Completion.

Until now, where a ratepayer undertakes works (such as a programme of refurbishment) on a previously vacant occupied property, the assessment should be deleted from the Rating List, providing the works go far enough. This follows many cases that have been before the Tribunals and of course the lead decision- Monk v Newbigin in 2017 heard by the Supreme Court.  A number of other Tribunal decisions created some doubt as to whether Local Authorities could then serve Completion Notices on refurbished buildings which hadn’t undergone structural works. A further grey area is what constituted “structural works” in this context. 

There is relatively little caselaw on this point, with only a handful of decisions before the Tribunals. Consequently, some Local Authorities were nervous about serving completion notices, where the recipient could demonstrate that the works involved didn’t create a new building i.e. were not structural. We are aware of Councils who fundamentally disagreed with that position and other Councils more willing to consider their position when presented with this case law. 

The Bill tightens up on this uncertainty in the legislation and from the 26th December 2023 Local Authorities have powers   to serve Completion Notices on all refurbished properties whether the works have been structural or not.

Edward Searle, ForeView Co-Founder comments:

“The changes take effect from 26th December 2023 and whilst inevitable that Government legislation would, at some point, seek to correct this irregularity, the timing is far from ideal. Landlords are seeing increasing vacancy in some sectors and a potential clampdown in other ways to mitigate this expensive tax on vacant property. These changes will lead to some unwelcome surprises in the New Year, but it’s important that landlords take advice immediately if and when a completion notice is received. Just because a Council has waited a long time to serve a completion notice, doesn’t mean it’s correct”.

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