The government’s plans to remove empty rate relief on empty buildings next April are to go ahead with very little change despite an intense lobbying effort by the property industry.

Local government minister John Healey said today it is drafting the secondary legislation so that all aspects of the rate reform, introduced in this year’s Budget, can come into effect next April.

Six months exemption

Owners of vacant and industrial properties will be granted six months exemption from rates payment in a move that will generate more than £1bn for the government.

Government has not conceded to the property industry’s demands to extend the rate relief for two years for industrial property and for one year for empty shops and offices.

However, it said companies in administration will be permanently exempt while empty listed buildings will continue to quality for tax concessions ‘because of the extra work required to bring them back into beneficial use’.

Punitive measures

It also does not plan to introduce punitive measures to deter property owners from deliberately damaging properties to avoid paying rates, although it said it could introduce such measures if needed. It said it would monitor the impact of the reforms with the Local Government Association, the Valuation Office Agency and the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation.

In a written statement to the House of Commons Healey said: ‘It would be an extreme step for a property owner to go to the lengths of deliberately vandalising a potentially valuable asset so that it is beyond economic repair and I do not believe this is a likely response to the Government’s reforms to make more efficient use of land.’