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Landmark Chambers has genuine and widespread expertise in rating advice and litigation. Barristers appear in the courts and tribunals at all levels, from the Valuation Tribunal to the UK Supreme Court to the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. Landmark barristers have appeared in all three of the rating cases to have reached the Supreme Court in recent years; indeed, in two of those three cases Landmark appeared on both sides.
Landmark’s rating team acts for and advises ratepayers of all sizes (from sole traders to multinational corporations), numerous billing authorities, and the VOA. It is common to encounter all parties in a rating dispute represented by Landmark’s barristers: the ATM test litigation currently before the Court of Appeal involves eight barristers representing four parties, and all of them are from Landmark.
As well as rating, Landmark’s members have unrivalled experience and expertise in the law of valuation in numerous other contexts, including leasehold enfranchisement, compulsory purchase, and rent review.
We have acted in many of the most significant rating cases in recent years, including:
- Woolway (VO) v Mazars – the leading case on the identification of the hereditament. The Supreme Court’s judgment has had wide raging implications, and (described as the “staircase tax”) has been mentioned in national newspapers, the Budget, and in forthcoming legislation. All Counsel in the case were members of Landmark;
- Newbigin (VO) v Monk – in which the Supreme Court considered the correct approach to the assumption that property is in a reasonable state of repair when valued for rating purposes. Landmark barristers acted for the interveners in the case, whose submissions were expressly accepted by the Court as a correct statement of the law. The Estates Gazette voted Monk as the top property case of 2017;
- Iceland Foods v Berry (VO) – the most recent Supreme Court case in the rating field. The case concerns the scope and application of the rules on the rateability of plant and machinery, and is expected to have far-reaching implications;
- Hughes (VO) v York Museums Trust – raised numerous important issues including the principles governing selection of valuation method, the proper approach to contractor’s basis and receipts and expenditure valuations, and paramountcy of occupation between charities and their trading companies;
- Harding and Clements v Secretary of State for Transport – considered rating principles in the context of a blight notice. The Upper Tribunal’s decision is one of the most important cases on both identifying the hereditament post-Mazars and on the definition of a property’s mode or category of occupation;
- South Kesteven DC v Digital Pipeline Ltd – one of the leading cases on the test for mandatory charitable relief from rates, and in particular on the requirement that property be used wholly or mainly for charitable purposes to be entitled to the relief.
Specific areas of expertise include:
Non-domestic rates litigation
Landmark’s barristers are involved in rating litigation at all levels, up to and including the UK Supreme Court. Many of the core concepts in rating (the hereditament, the repairing assumption, rateable occupation) can raise detailed and intricate questions of law; Landmark’s rating team is able to and regularly does advise and represent clients in issues of this nature.
Landmark barristers have been involved in many of the most significant cases on rating valuation. We have considerable experience in examining expert valuation witnesses, and are able to explain, analyse and apply all of the established rating valuation techniques in any legal context.
Collection and enforcement cases
Much rating litigation today occurs in magistrates’ courts and the Divisional Court, in disputes between billing authorities and ratepayers. A number of difficult substantive and procedural issues can arise in such disputes, including entitlement to various exemptions and reliefs, paramountcy of occupation, and compliance with formalities of service. Landmark’s rating team is familiar with all of these issues and is very experienced in dealing with the particular challenges which arise when litigating these issues before courts which are not familiar with rating.
Charitable relief and other exemptions
The circumstances in which charities’ occupation of premises can give rise to rates relief are complex: there is an extensive body of relevant case law in both the charity and the rating context, and charitable relief often involves the resolution of difficult questions of fact. Landmark’s barristers have considerable expertise in dealing with these issues both for ratepayers (ranging from small local charities to national institutions like the British Museum and the NHS) and for billing authorities.
Since the advent of full rating liability for empty property in 2008, sophisticated schemes have been developed by ratepayers to mitigate their liabilities, and by billing authorities to counter such strategies. Landmark has been at the forefront of the development of the law in this area, for both sides. Barristers have experience in all of the empty rate exemptions, including the rarer forms of relief (such as for scheduled monuments or companies in administration).
A ratepayer’s chances of success in litigation are significantly improved by deploying a professional advocate. Landmark is able to offer barristers at all levels of call to clients requiring such services. Our junior members are experienced in dealing with magistrates’ court and tribunal disputes at short notice and at competitive rates. Conversely, our specialist rating practitioners (both juniors and QCs) are amongst the most respected at the Bar, and are comfortable working in multidisciplinary teams and handling the most complex and high-value matters which can arise in this context.
Council Tax is payable by almost every adult in the country. Whilst the sums involved in this context are in many cases lower than in rating disputes, changes in Council Tax liability can nevertheless have profound impacts on the families and individuals affected by them. Landmark has a number of barristers with experience in Council Tax disputes, both in the tribunals and on appeal to the High Court.