Who pays business rates?

Business rates are payable on both occupied and empty premises. Everyone needs to make provision within their business finances for paying business rates, just as you would for other business expenses.

Occupied properties

The occupier of the premises is responsible for paying business rates. This will usually be the owner or the tenant. Sometimes the landlord of the property charges the occupier a rent that also includes an amount for the business rates.

It remains a private matter between the landlord and occupier to decide who is responsible to make payment, however the bill will remain in the name of the occupier, and if it is not paid, action will be taken against the occupier, not the landlord, to recover the amount due.

Unoccupied properties

Whoever has the right to occupy the property needs to pay any charge that is due (e.g. the leaseholder, tenant or the freeholder).

If a tenant moves out of a property but does not surrender the lease for a further six months, the tenant remains liable to pay any unoccupied rate charge that becomes due. However, if the tenant's lease ends, the landlord needs to pay the charge.

Unoccupied property rates are charged at the full amount after an initial three-month exemption. This exemption period is extended to six months for industrial properties such as factories, workshops and warehouses.

The exemption is based on the property's circumstances, rather than the liable person's. Therefore if a new owner takes over a property that has already been unoccupied for over three months (or six months if industrial) and keeps it empty, the 100 per cent unoccupied rate is charged immediately.