Here’s something that I think a lot of retailers can learn from. In mid-March Yucel Yavuz sent me an email. He wrote: “A rep from a company called National Rating Service visited my shop in June 2010. She claimed that she could get my business rates reduced by making an appeal and that it would cost £500. She said since the credit crunch the property prices have fallen and that this should reflect my rateable value.”
He says he then gave her £1,000 by cheque. “The other £500 was for my brother’s restaurant next door. A month later I got a letter from them and from the Valuation Office Agency VOA acknowledging the appeal, saying it may go to a tribunal. It may take up to three months or may vary, depending on the workload.”
After that he heard nothing. He dug out the paperwork and tried to contact the company in January, but got no reply. He called the (VOA) office at the beginning of March and got the bad news.
“They said that the appeal went to tribunal in January 2013. It was dismissed because there was no one there to defend the appeal. Then I tried to contact National Rating Service, but it just rings out and this happens all the time.”
I couldn’t find the company at all. The internet seems obsessed with Royal Naval Ratings when you Google.
Finally, Yucel asks: “Can you give some advice on what to do now? Is there a body that I can report them to? What are my options?”
Regular readers will know that I give three pieces of advice to retailers regarding rates. Never agree to any cold-calling rep’s offer. If you feel you need help call either Ken Batty, who is in the 150 top-rated charter surveyors’ list and who has spent his working life battling these cowboys, or call the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, who will give you a free half-hour of advice on the phone.
Anyway, I forwarded Yucel’s story to Ken and this is his reply: “This is very sad and makes my blood boil. The woman who called had clearly no knowledge whatsoever of rating - the fact that property values may have fallen is totally irrelevant (capital values have no relevance in rating valuations on standard or bulk class properties).
“In rating terms and even with a fall in rental values this in itself will not lead to a reduction because the VOA look at rental evidence at the AVD (antecedent valuation date) for the 2010 list which is 2008 - therefore, a fall in rental values after this date can be held to be due merely to economic factors and this would not under the rating hypothesis lead to a reduction.”
As Ken further points out, Yucel should not have been conned and should at least have sought a second opinion.
“That said, this is clearly a case of fraud and should be immediately reported to Mr Yavuz’s Trading Standards Officer. I also believe it should be reported to the police special fraud office.”
Finally, Ken offers: “I am more than willing to take on both these cases, but there will be an uphill battle from the outset as this unscrupulous and negligent firm have cost him his appeal rights - one appeal per list. I will do everything possible to rectify the situation, but legal appeal rights have now been lost.”