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North Somerset Council v Honda Motor Europe Ltd and others [2010] EWHC (QB) 1505

DATE: 02 Jul 2010

A failure to serve a demand notice under reg 5 of the Non Domestic Rating (Collection and Enforcement) (Local Lists) Regulations 1989 as soon as practicable did not result in automatic invalidity, rather the court would have regard to the length of the delay and the impact of that delay on the ratepayer in the context of the public interest in collecting outstanding rates, and the greater the prejudice to the ratepayer flowing from the delay the more likely would be the conclusion that Parliament intended invalidity to follow.


Rate demand notices served on the 6th November 2007 in respect a hereditament occupied for the open storage of cars between the 13th October 2002 to the 13th September 2007 were not served as soon as practicable because from January 2003 the ratepayer's cars were regularly on the site and the council's inspection system should have picked up that occupation and thereafter little time would have been needed to pin down the correct legal entity on whom to serve a rates notice, and the ratepayer had been prejudiced by the delay and it would be conspicuously unfair (ie unconscionable) to allow the council to recover the rates because the ratepayer was unaware of the liability and had the council served a demand notice in 2003 steps would have been taken to ensure that any liability was soon extinguished.


Rate demand noticed served on the 6th November 2007 in respect a hereditament occupied for storage of cars between the 1st November 2002 to the 31st March 2005 were not served as soon as practicable because the fact that the site was in occupation should have been discovered by the council within three months of the first unsuccessful postal canvass which was sent to the site at the time occupation commenced and a demand served before the end of March 2003, and the ratepayer was unaware of the liability and had made no provision for the additional costs id rate liability in pricing its cars.


Rate demand notices served on the 6th November 2007 in respect of a newly erected unoccupied office hereditament for the period between the 19th November 2002 and the 22nd February 2005 were not served as soon as practicable because the council should have served a demand notice during the spring of 2003 since the only obstacle to timely service was the identity of the owner and his could have been obtained promptly from the Land Registry or the owners letting agents, and the ratepayer had been prejudiced by the delay because if a demand notice had triggered the ratepayer's specific interest in the question of rates liability before the time limit for alterations to the 2000 rating list expired he could have made a proposal for the deletion of the hereditament from that list.


The facts surrounding the occupation of an open site used for car storage at a port pointed inexorably to the conclusion that the ratepayer was in rateable occupation since its occupation was paramount because the lease granted the ratepayer control over the whole site and the rights reserved to the landlord port company were subordinate, the extent to which, monies paid by the ratepayer to the port company was not relevant, and the special rating systems at ports did not come within the prohibition of Art 35 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which applied to national measures which had the specific object or effect of restricting exports.