Flexible workspace operators should take note of the latest government legislations with regard to empty property rates (EPR) and building energy efficiency:
Property Rates: Government U-Turn
Jerry Schurder, head of rating at Gerald Eve, has long campaigned alongside the BCA for a revaluation of property rates in order to establish a better, fairer trading environment for operators of flexible workspace.
Commenting in Property Week (15/08/14 edition), Mr Schurder provided the latest update on the government's stance on business rates: "One of the Chancellor's flagship business rates measures in last December's Autumn Statement was quietly dropped a fortnight ago." He said that the U-turn has been "hidden", with no formal announcement or communication.
An Open Letter placed on the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) website concluded: "The Government has decided to fold the consideration of reform of the business rates appeals process in to the broader review of business rates administration, which is considering longer-term reform taking effect after the next revaluation in April 2017."
The Government originally intended to make the appeals process more transparent. Yet this would have required businesses to provide a more detailed explanation of their challenge, with excessive 'red tape' and additional costs.
Mr Schurder describes the U-turn as "a victory for common sense" particularly as the government has committed to a wider administration review, but warns against complacency, urging all commercial rate-payers and industry bodies to maintain the impetus.
Buildings' Energy Efficiency Comes Under the Spotlight this December
Ahead of the government's sustainability regulations that come into effect from 2018, which will require commercial landlords to make improvements to their least energy-efficient buildings, a new regulation is due to start from December 2014.
The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) is designed to highlight exactly where landlords stand to save money by improving older or less efficient buildings. ESOS regulations will require larger firms to measure their energy use, identify energy-saving opportunities, keep a record of the data, and notify the Environment Agency when they have done so.
Firms will not be forced to carry out any energy improvement works; rather, ESOS is designed to raise awareness of cost-savings and therefore motivate landlords to carry out their own enhancements.
However, the scheme is not to be taken lightly. Any company that qualifies for ESOS but fails to notify the Environment Agency, or fails to carry out an ESOS audit by the deadlines given, may be liable to pay a financial penalty with daily interest rates until the situation is rectified.
It is thought around 10,000 companies will qualify for the scheme. Those that do must carry out their ESOS assessment and notify the Environment Agency by 5th December 2015.