Smaller Businesses Increasingly at the Mercy of Rogue Rating Surveys as Deadline for 2017 Rating List and New 2023 Revaluation Approach says Colliers

23rd March 2023, 4:03 pm

Colliers calls on Government to Regulate Ratings Industry and Introduce Register of Rating Surveyors

The Government must regulate the Rating Surveying profession to protect customers from cowboy rating surveyors that are trying to take advantage of vulnerable businesses say rating experts at international property consultants Colliers.

According to Colliers Business Rates Team the upheaval caused by the closing of the 2017 List at the end of March 2023 and the new 2023 Rating Revaluation from April 1st has increased the number of rogue agents who claim they can help businesses. Colliers believes this situation will only be further exacerbated when the Government brings in annual returns and “the duty to notify” as part of its business rates “reforms” expected later this year, adding further complications to the system.

According to Colliers, the latest Revaluation has created a two-tier system between those owners and occupiers who either themselves or via agents made representations to the VOA during the assessment process and who appear to have been more successful in negotiating lower and more correct values – and those that didn’t. This means some of the smaller businesses in market towns across the UK may not be seeing the reductions in their rate bills that they should be in the Revaluation on April 1st, making them vulnerable to approaches by rogue rating surveyors who promise they will help them negotiate the new Rating Revaluation, but who often just take up front fees, then fail to deliver and disappear without trace.

And Colliers believe the situation will get worse when the Government brings in new legislation which will request the annual provision of information from the rate payer and the duty to notify whereby businesses will not only need to confirm the physical details of the property on an annual basis but also updates on rents and lease information as well as trading information, even when there have been no changes. This will pass a significant administrative burden onto the rate payer.

According to John Webber, Head of Business Rates at Colliers, “To put into context , currently out of approximately 1.9 million ratepayers, 700,000 pay no business rates due to reliefs. These changes will result in these 700,000 ratepayers being required to send one or more pieces of information annually to the VOA, involving them in a bureaucratic exercise that plays into the hands of rogue “advisers” who will claim to advise them. We are really worried about the consequences of this new legislation.”

Colliers say are increasingly being approached to help businesses who have been approached or even burnt by unscrupulous advisers.  And even to pitch against them. In one recent pitch, the firm was pitching against a newly set up rating advisory business set up by two people with no rating experience who had previously been in prison!

Other trends Colliers is seeing:

  • Rogue surveyors are spamming companies to act with a sense of urgency as the 2017 list comes to a close at the end of March and promising them they can find them savings “for a fee”.  Often no such savings are available and the fee is non refundable.
  • Businesses are finding themselves tied into contracts for “all multiple lists” which means they are tied in indefinitely and reputable firms are then not able to help them.
  • Well known rating scammers, including ones who have been exposed as rogue traders under other company names are setting up as new firms and spamming businesses acting under new names.
  • A number of new “rating companies” do not have any members qualified in rating. One firm investigated by Colliers had two directors, one of whom was a lawyer and one an account manager.

“The problem is the industry is totally unregulated- anyone can set up and claim they are experts,” continues Webber. “That is why we have been calling for RICS or failing that, government regulation and for there to be a register of rating advisors, similar to the FCA to make sure the cowboy and criminal element that prey on businesses are kept at bay. Until reformed, retail and hospitality businesses need the best advice if they are to navigate the complex business rates and particularly CCA.”

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