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    Businesses warned of rogue business rates agents

    Photo: iStock

    The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has urged businesses to protect themselves from rogue business rates agents.

    Businesses can challenge their valuation, which follows from the new rateable values took effect in April 2023, if they think it’s incorrect using a rating agent.

    But some rogue agents submit inaccurate information and this could result in penalties or increased rates bills, the agency warned, urging businesses to be cautious of anyone who guarantees they can secure big business rates reductions.

    “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,” Alan Colston, chief valuer at the VOA, said.

    “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.”

    The VOA has 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 you are paying for. Legitimate agents should not pressure you into signing a contract, or demand large sums of money up front.
    • Familiarise yourself with the VOA’s 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.

    Gary L Watson, IRRV chief executive, said: “Ratepayers should take extreme care when employing agents. It is easy for rogue agents to create the impression that they are a reputable organisation.

    “Business owners should make sure that any agent belongs to a professional body, like IRRV, RICS or RSA. The agent will then be subject to that body’s rigorous disciplinary procedure.

    “Furthermore, you can obtain advice on many issues from the VOA or your local council. Applications for relief should be made direct to your local council without having to engage with a rating agent.”

    A spokesperson from RICS said: “There are only three recognised bodies that hold their membership to account regarding the quality of their business rates advice and related ethics – RICS, IRRV and RSA and we urge ratepayers to only take business rates advice from a member of at least one of these bodies.

    “When issuing terms of engagement, members of these bodies are required to refer to the joint Rating Consultancy Code of Practice. If in any doubt, prior to signing a contract we recommend checking membership with the appropriate body. More information can be found on the RICS website.”

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