Here’s a striking warning about rates. It comes from Rohit Patel, who trades as VNP Stores in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. Last year he fell for a spiel from cold-calling RVA surveyors, based in Manchester and advertising a no win-no fee rates reduction service. He said okay; they came and measured, but then quickly demanded £100 + Vat upfront. He refused; they nagged and he paid the £120 bill to get rid of them.

He heard nothing for a while then got a demand for 50% of the reduction they had ‘achieved’ = £500 + Vat.

He rang his valuation office and was told, it’s a scam - you automatically get a £1K reduction as rural rate relief.

RVA is holding him to the contract he signed, quoting from the agreement which says: ‘The fee will be payable whether or not RVA is shown to be the effective cause of any such reduction in the rateable value (including any repayment of rates, relief, reliefs and refunds).’

A couple of months ago Rohit also contacted his MP (Andrew Selous, Conservative) over his rates, who intervened and got the local office to pay a visit. The valuation officer said at the time, you’ve been over-measured and are due a further reduction.

So he qualifies for a backdated refund (which predates the contract) and a further reduction on his rates.

Now he faces the dilemma of deciding whether to refuse to pay RVA and possibly winding up in court, in which case I think he could defend on the basis of an unfair contract. He should also get his trading standards office involved.