Last year’s business rates revaluation, the first in seven years, has left thousands of small businesses across England, Wales and Scotland reeling.
Those with increased rates are naturally eager to ensure they’re paying the right amount. But establishing a fair bill was made more challenging by the launch of a new appeals platform at the same time as last April’s revaluation.
It’s a situation that has left some confused, impatient and vulnerable to approach by cowboy ratings agencies. Such firms often offer the world on business rates reductions, only to deliver very little.
Their practices can include demanding substantial upfront fees to provide a second opinion on rateable value, which is used to determine business rates, and using complex contracts to tie clients into annual fees for years to come.
FSB has campaigned hard to protect small firms from being taken advantage of. It has helped members who had dealings with ratings appeals companies to obtain legal advice and resolve any problems.
At the same time, FSB has worked closely with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to ensure that its new Rating Consultancy Code of Practice fully recognises the needs of small firms.
If a firm is RICS-accredited this should mean they work in a professional manner, to a code of conduct, and face sanctions if they are found to be in breach.
Martin McTague, FSB Policy Director, said: “If an agent is demanding upfront fees, that should set alarm bells ringing. Never touch a ratings agency unless they’re RICS-accredited. Thankfully, there are steps that can be taken to protect yourself from the cowboys.”