Michael Outama runs a Londis in Langley, Birmingham. He writes: “My rates have gone up by £1,640 compared with last year. This year my bill comes to £5,442.82 but that is not the problem. Last Friday Sandwell council sent me another bill for £6,631.76 on top of what I already paid.”

He says that, when he took over the business back in October 1989, he believed he was paying business rates for premises numbers 5/7/9 but the council is now saying he didn’t pay for number 9.

The fact that the business and this oversight had been in situ since early 1970 doesn’t seem to trouble the council. They have told Michael that because the shop next door to him split their shop into two (and is number 9A), then he is responsible for number nine.

He adds: “I made a rates reduction appeal 10 years ago and I won some reduction. Nothing was mentioned about this. Why now?”

He is naturally very worried about this unexpected bill of over £10K a year.

I thought the best thing he could do was to consult a local chartered surveyor who could negotiate on his behalf. Councils won’t take much notice of individuals, but they will listen to a professional.

But before he does this, I also recommended that he should ring the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors rates disputes helpline. (call 024 7686 8555). They will give him a free half-hour consultation over the phone and be able to recommend a member who is local to him.