Landlord charged £6,000 in business rates for property destroyed by fire

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A landlord is still being charged £6,000 in business rates for a property which was destroyed in a blaze last year.

Geoff Lord is calling for a change in the law to grant landlords a dispensation on business rates following a blaze which ravaged his three units in Creek Fen in June last year.

One unit has already been demolished and Mr Lord has applied for permission to knock down the second but he is still being charged rates for the third unit which is uninhabitable and requires a new roof.

Mr Lord, who is planning to rebuild the site, has already paid £2,000 in business rates for unit three and has received a further demand for just over £4,000.

Business rates are set nationally and are collected by Fenland District Council on behalf of the Government.

Mr Lord, who has been a commercial landlord for 30 years, said: “At the moment it is unrentable and how am I supposed to pay thousands of pounds in rates without generating an income?

“There should be a dispensation. I am not asking for any favours but while this rebuilding work is taking place to get the factory back into a habitable and rentable condition they should waive the rates.”

The problems are down to a law which makes landlords liable for 100 per cent of business rates if a commercial property is vacant for more than six months.

The rates for the entire property cost £25,000 a year.

Mr Lord, 69, of Creek Fen, said: “The Government is banging on about helping small business with the rates but they have had nearly five years to address this situation and not done a thing. It is such an unjust bit of legislation.

“Over the years since this law has been out, there have been countless cases of landlords pulling perfectly good commercial properties down as they are not able to rent them out and can’t afford the business rates.

“We have all got to pay our dues but there has got to be some fairness.”

An electrical fault with a vehicle sparked the blaze on June 3 last year which gutted the NCB Commodities warehouse.

Mr Lord, who has owned the site for more than 30 years, is planning to rebuild the factory, which is estimated to cost £450,000, and has praised his insurance company, NFU Mutual.

A district council spokesman said: “We have been in contact with Mr Lord since the fire that severely damaged his property last year.

“We are holding recovery action in respect of his Business Rates and have asked him to contact the Valuation Office Agency, (a Government Agency that sets the basis of rates, who advises us how much rates should be charged so that we can collect them) so that they can consider removing this property from paying rates altogether.

“We received a planning application on 24 February 2015 from Mr Lord, which is currently progressing through our planning process with the determination date expected by April 29.”

What’s your view on business rates? Email news@fenlandcitizen.co.uk