The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) is warning business owners to avoid taking advice from agents who approach them to reduce their business rates bills.
According to Alan Colston, Chief Valuer at the VOA:
“The vast majority of agents are reputable and provide a good service. But there is a small minority promising big reductions in business rates, based on incorrect information.
“These rogue agents often charge substantial fees for providing poor quality submissions using our online Check and Challenge service, which is free to use.
“We strongly advise businesses do their own research and explore different options before appointing an agent. Make sure you choose your own agent – don’t let an agent choose you.
“And remember, you can manage your business rates yourself by creating a Business Rates Valuation Account on GOV.UK.”
Cynically, business rates’ payers may be excused for noting that the VOA may have an agenda to ensure that any increase in rates goes unchallenged. However, in a recent press release the VOA have offered the following advice:
“We have a checklist to help businesses if they want to use an agent:
- Anyone can call themselves an agent, but this does not mean they are a member of a professional body. Check an agent’s background before signing a contract.
- If an agent is a member of the Rating Surveyor’s Association (RSA), Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), or Institute of Revenues, Rating, Valuation (IRRV), they must follow rating agent standards. This provides business owners with extra reassurance.
- Check the length of a contract before signing. Rogue agents have been known to tie business owners into costly, long-term agreements.
- Make sure you read the small print and fully understand the services for which you are paying. Legitimate agents should not pressure you into signing a contract or demand large sums of money up front.
- Familiarise yourself with our Check service and create a Business Rates Valuation Account so you can manage your property and view correspondence between the VOA and your agent.
- It is your responsibility to ensure the information your agent provides to the VOA is correct.”
There is also online guidance on the process for appointing an agent for business rates at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/appoint-an-agent#appointing-an-agent-for-business-rates