Empty Premises Relief

DEPARTMENT OF FINANCE AND PERSONNEL

8 May 2012

Finance Minister urges business community – apply now for Empty Premises Relief

Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson is encouraging business owners to take advantage of the Empty Premises Relief which came into effect on 1 April 2012. Business ratepayers who move into premises which were previously unoccupied for 12 months or more can claim a one year concession, during 2012/13, that will allow 50% empty property relief to continue for a year. To receive the 50% relief, ratepayers must submit an application to Land & Property Services (LPS) with evidence that the property, when last used, was used for retail purposes.

Speaking about the Empty Premises Relief, Sammy Wilson said: “I have listened carefully to concerns from the local business community about the high number of empty shops in our town centres. Local traders are not only continuing to face harsh economic times, but also a revolution in retailing, with online shopping and bigger stores taking an increasing share of consumer spending.

“The situation is getting worse and we’ve got to work together to address this downward spiral. It’s not good for business, not good for consumer choice and it’s not good for community life. “This relief is unique in the UK and it’s to encourage long term empty shops and other retail premises back into business. I urge anyone thinking of setting up a business in an empty retail unit to consider applying for this concession, to help them get established in the difficult first year. The new business doesn’t have to be retail, it doesn’t have to be town centre and the premises don’t necessarily have to be a traditional shop. Just ask Land & Property Services and they will be happy to advise you about applying.”

 Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said: “These proposals for first year 50% rate relief for companies taking up empty retail proprieties will help both address the problem of vacant shops and support new start businesses in their first critical year of trading. Both this initiative and extending the Small Business Rate Relief schemes are strongly welcomed from our members given the challenging economic climate.”

 Welcoming the Empty Premises Relief Scheme, Omagh Chamber of Commerce President, Christopher Kelly said: “This is a very welcome initiative which should help reduce overheads and help attract businesses back into our town centre’s which have too many vacant properties”.

 Owners of empty properties were sent details of the Empty Premises Relief and application forms by LPS earlier this week. Application forms are available by calling the LPS helpline on 0300 200 7801 or can be downloaded from the NI Business Info website: http://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/emptypremises

Notes to editors:

1. The scheme will effectively allow for 50% rate relief for up to a year once a long term empty retail premises becomes occupied.

2. However, due to European Union (EU) state aid regulations there will be a threshold on the amount of relief. Therefore the relief awarded will be:

  • 50% of the rates chargeable in relation to the net annual value (NAV) of the property; or
  • An amount which does not contravene the EU State Aid thresholds.

3. Where the property is rented, and the landlord is liable to pay the rates, the landlord must pass the benefit onto the tenants.

4. Media enquiries only to DFP Communications Office on 028 9016 3389 or 028 9016 3390. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699715440 and your call will be returned.