The Valuation Tribunal Service, an independent appeals body, dealing with business rates appeals, has temporarily shut up shop with immediate effect for the next 5 weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tony Masella it’s Chief Executive & Chief Operating Officer said “the VTS/VTE will be postponing all tribunal hearings until the 30 April 2020” adding “this will allow us a period to reassess how best to deliver our services. We will be looking in to whether we are able to maintain business by dealing with later hearings without face to face interaction.”
An appeal to the Valuation Tribunal can only be lodged after a decision notice has been issued by the Valuation Office Agency and can take upto two and half years for the case to reach the tribunal under the third stage of the Check Challenge Appeal system of challenging rates bills.
It is understood that representatives had expressed concerns about attending tribunal hearings given Government advice around the coronavirus whilst a number of external venues had cancelled pre-arranged bookings resulting in the collapse of 17 tribunal hearings.
Robert Hayton, Head of UK business rates at the real estate adviser Altus Group, said “whilst the safety and well being of those attending tribunals has to be the highest priority, it is important that cases continue to be determined which could be done through written submissions as provided for in the Practice Statement or, alternatively, by telephone/video conferencing” adding “a successful determination often triggers a substantial tax rebate and that could mean the difference of a business surviving or not in these challenging times so, hopefully, the tribunal will be back in action quickly”.
Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunal Service, which hear appeals from the Valuation Tribunal Service in the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber), will continue to hear cases saying “running our courts and tribunals is an essential public service. Audio and video technology has long played a part in the justice system and can now provide particular support during the coronavirus outbreak.”