The primary legislation for Business Rates completion notices is contained in s46A of Local Government Act 1988.
The legislation states that where it is considered that a commercial premises is structurally complete, or that the works remaining can reasonably be expected to be completed within three months, a completion notice will be served on the 'owner' of the commercial premises.
The LGFA 1988 provides a mechanism for ascertaining the day on which a new hereditament is to be treated as completed, this mechanism is the service of a completion notice, against which there is a right of appeal.
The completion notice is a document that specifies the 'completion date' - this is the date on which a commercial premises becomes rateable and enters the rating list for business rates purposes.
A completion notice will be issued for each new commercial premises to the 'owner'. The 'owner' is defined as 'the person entitled to possession'.
For this purpose a 'new commercial premises is defined as including a building produced by the structural alteration of an existing building where the existing building is comprised in a hereditament which, by virtue of the alteration becomes (or becomes part of) a different hereditament of different hereditaments. It also includes part of a building.
If the premises are unoccupied and empty from this 'completion date', then the premises will be eligible for a three month exemption, whilst it remains so. If it is an industrial premises, then up to six month exemption can apply.
Criteria used to decide a completion date
Completion notices are documents issued on commercial properties which are newly built or approaching structural completion. The council's visiting officers routinely visit the premises to establish how close to completion the premises are. Information will also be sought from the developers of the premises and the owners.
The criteria for determining completion for business rates purposes are substantially different to those for determining completion for Building Control therefore whether building control certificates have been issued or not is not directly relevant.
It is important to remember that a completion notice may be served up to three months in advance of the day (S.46A of the 1988 Act) on which the council specifies that a property is complete. This means that sometimes, on the date that the notice is sent, the property may still not be complete. The important date to focus on is the date that the council is specifying as the date of completion in the completion notice.
Each case has to be considered using the British Council for Offices Guide.
List of timescales the Council will use to determine the date for completion:
Shell and Core - three months to completion notice date
Development includes finished to landlord areas only, with services distribution capped off at risers to each floor (three months to completion notice date)
Category A Fit Out (developers finish - the level of fitting-out between shell and core and a point when internal components must be designed to a specification for the particular end user)
Typically all finishes:
Category B Fit Out - Bespoke fitting out to meet occupier's specific requirements
Disagreeing with the completion notice
The regulations specify that if you disagree with a completion notice you should appeal within 28 days of the date of service of the notice to the Valuation Tribunal who are an independent body who make rulings on such matters.
However, you can write to the council if you wish in the first instance, setting out the reasons why you disagree with the date of completion.
Once the council has received your letter, we may ask for further information or we will advise you of our decision as soon as possible to allow you sufficient time to appeal further if you wish. A revised completion notice will be issued if necessary.
If you have any questions regarding a completion notice you've received, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find further information on the Valuation Tribunal Service website.
The office that will deal with your appeal is: Valuation Tribunal, 2nd Floor, 120 Leman Street, London, E1 8EU
Email: VTWhitechapel@vts.gsi.gov.uk or call 0300 123 2035.