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Rateable occupation must be beneficial to occupier

Makro Properties Ltd v Nuneaton and Bedworth BC [2012] EWHC 2250 (Admin)

Makro was the tenant of a wholesale warehouse in Coventry. The Local Authority sought to recover empty rates from Makro for the years 2009 and 2010. It was accepted by Makro that the property was empty for part of that period. However, Makro relied upon the fact that it had used the property for storing 16 pallets of documents during the period 25 November 2009 to 12 January 2010. It then reoccupied the warehouse in July 2010.

Makro sought to rely upon rating rules to the effect that a six month rate free period could be triggered when a property subsequently became empty, provided that there had been an intervening period of occupation of at least six weeks. Makro argued that the use of the property to store the pallets of documents constituted a six week period of occupation so that it then had the benefit of a six month rate free period from January to July 2010.

The court held that there had been rateable occupation of the property for the six week period during which the pallets of documents had been stored. It was clear that Makro had intended to occupy the property during this period (albeit for the specific purpose of taking advantage of the six month rate free period) and the court considered that where an intention to occupy was present the acts necessary to constitute actual occupation could be less than might otherwise be the case. The court also considered the rateable occupation was occupation which was beneficial to the occupier. In this case it could not be said that storing the pallets of documents was of no practical benefit to Makro.