Empty property rates and reliefs

A building is classed as empty (unoccupied) if it isn't being used and all stock and effects have been removed (apart from fixtures and fittings).

Empty non-domestic properties are automatically exempt from business rates for the first 3 or 6 months the property is empty, depending on the type of property. After this exemption period, full business rates are payable for most properties. There are some further exemptions for very specific circumstances.

While a property is empty, the rates calculation uses the standard multiplier even if the lower small business rates multiplier applied when the property was in use. 

Where there is a leaseholder, the leaseholder is responsible for paying. Otherwise, the owner must pay.

If you get a Business Rates bill for an empty property and you're no longer the owner or tenant, please contact the Business Rates team.

Empty property reliefs and exemptions

The 3 or 6 month rate-free period for empty properties

You don't have to pay rates for the first 3 months a property is empty, or for the first 6 months where the property counts as qualifying industrial premises. 

To start a new rate-free period, the property must be occupied continuously for six weeks before becoming empty again.

You don't get a further rate-free period if there is a change in ownership, leaseholder or tenant.

Other empty property exemptions

An unoccupied property is exempt from business rates where any of the following apply:

  • the rateable value is less than £2,600 (until 31 March 2017) or £2,900 (1 April 2017 - 31 March 2018) 
  • occupation is prohibited by law
  • the Crown or council has taken action to buy the property or to prohibit occupation 
  • it's a listed building
  • it's an ancient monument
  • the ratepayer is a charity and the property's next use will be completely or mainly for charitable purposes
  • the ratepayer is a Community Amateur Sports club (CASC) and the property's next use will be completely or mainly for sport 
  • it's exempt from business rates altogether
  • the ratepayer is only the ratepayer because they are the personal representative or executor of someone who has died

Unoccupied properties are also exempt where any of the following insolvency or debt situations apply:

  • there's a bankruptcy order in respect of the ratepayer or their estate
  • the ratepayer is a company in administration, in liquidation, or subject to a winding-up order
  • the ratepayer is the ratepayer because they are a trustee under a deed of arrangement 

New build empty property relief is no longer available.

How to apply for empty property relief

We'll automatically apply empty property relief for the initial rate-free period when you tell us about the change in circumstances that means the property has become empty.

After that, you'll need to contact the Business Rates team if you think you are entitled to further relief.

What happens next

You'll get a new bill from us showing you don't have to pay anything for the rate-free period. This bill will give the figures for the whole year, but you'll get another bill once the 3 or 6 month period is over. You'll then have to start paying as normal unless you have asked for an exemption and we have agreed.

If you've asked for an exemption and haven't heard back, you must pay until you get our decision. 

For as long as the property is empty, you'll see a line on your bill for 'Empty property rate for period', even though the figure against it will be zero if you aren't getting an exemption.

We try to make decisions within 4 weeks, but it might take longer.

Renewing empty property relief

The property will show on our records as empty until you tell us otherwise. This means you don't need to reapply for any exemptions. 

Changes in circumstance for empty property relief

You must contact the Business Rates team to tell us when a property stops being empty or an exemption no longer applies. Even if you aren't getting any empty property exemption, it's important that our records are up-to-date so you pay the right amount. Your bill might be lower when the property is occupied than when it isn't.

We do check up regularly on empty properties claiming reliefs and exemptions. If you've had a letter from us, you can answer our review questions online. Sometimes we visit to check.

If we find you're claiming empty property relief for a property that doesn't count for the relief any more, we'll send you a backdated bill for the full amount of rates due. You'll need to pay within 14 days.