The case concerned whether particular rooms in a vacant office building were in separate rateable occupation. The owners of the office building entered into an agreement with a site security company for the provision of property guardians to occupy the rooms for domestic use as a means of keeping the site secure prior to its redevelopment. It is fairly widespread approach to rates mitigation.
The UT had held that the relevant hereditament was each individual room occupied by the Guardians and that there was no evidence that property owner retained general control of the rooms in question even though it retained the right to move Guardians out of theirs and exercised that right on two occasions.
However, the Court of Appeal surveyed the authorities and identified the need for the courts to look at the rights as between parties when determining general control. It held that that actual exercise of rights was not a necessity. Under lying contractual control could be enough. As a result, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal.
This case will have significant implications for the efficacy of guardian schemes.
Mark Westmoreland Smith appeared for the Valuation Officer.