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Number of contested business rates bills slumps under new system

Rhiannon Bury
Business rates were overhauled in April - 2017 Getty Images

The number of appeals being lodged through the Government’s new business rates system has plummeted as landlords appear to be struggling to navigate the online process.

Business rates have been overhauled in recent months resulting in both changes to the values of hundreds of thousands of properties, as well as sweeping reform of the way decisions on rates bills are appealed.

But figures released by the Valuation Office Agency on Thursday showed the number of bills contested has slumped from 182,000 at the same point in 2010, when the system was last changed, to just 5,650 this year. This is equivalent to just 0.3pc of the 1.85 million properties in England.

The number of cases which have reached the full appeal stage is understood to be just three, although this information was not made public.

John Webber, head of business rating at property firm Colliers International, said: “It beggars belief that businesses are so happy with their rate bills in 2017 that hardly anyone is contesting. We would argue the figures for 2017 are so low purely because ratepayers can’t navigate through the new system.”

This April’s revaluation meant that some retailers experienced an increase of up to 80pc on their rates bill.

The new appeals system, which is called Check, Challenge, Appeal, has been met with widespread condemnation from business groups and landlords, which say the online process is too difficult and time-consuming, particularly because each property has to be entered individually.

Firms must also provide all relevant information to their case upfront, with no opportunity to add anything at a later date.

Jerry Schurder, head of business rates at Gerald Eve, said: “The costs of appealing are so punitive and the obstacle course which now has to be navigated so obstructive, that many firms don’t think it worthwhile and are being denied access to justice.”