Can I stop my domestic stables being classed as a business?

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The number of domestic stables being reclassified as liable for business rates appears to be on the rise. Julie Liddle, a director of Robson & Liddle, examines the rules and what redress is available for stables owners.

Through our work advising landowners and rural property owners, we’re aware of a number of cases where owners of domestic stables have been visited by a valuation officer and had their stables reclassified as being liable for business rates.

With owners who’ve been used to only paying council tax suddenly finding themselves also liable for business rates which can run into thousands of pounds, it’s no wonder these cases are hotly disputed.

After all, why should property owners in this position pay business rates when the stables aren’t being used for business purposes, only to house their pet horses?

Unfortunately, the rules surrounding business rates valuations are rather clumsy and one of the criteria for whether business rates are payable is dependent on how far the said stables are from the main dwelling.

Why are stables classed as being liable for business rates?

Agricultural property currently receives exemptions from business rates. However, horses and ponies are not classed as agricultural livestock, so stables and ancillary buildings are not agricultural buildings and are therefore rateable.

There are certain exceptions, for instance if stables lie within the curtilage of the dwelling and could only be sold with the house; the buildings would be covered by council tax and not business rates.

In the cases we are seeing, the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), has reclassified domestic stables on the basis that they are not within the curtilage of the dwelling. In many cases, the VOA tend to define curtilage as being in the garden.

It means that some property owners have been caught out after acquiring adjacent land to create stables for domestic use. As this land is not within the original curtilage of their own dwelling, they have then fallen foul of the rules.

What can I do to prevent paying business rates on my domestic stables?

If you have acquired property with stables that were formerly used as a business, you can apply to have them reclassified for domestic use, providing you only intend to use them for domestic activities and they are within the original curtilage of the property.

On the other hand if your domestic stables have recently been reclassified as liable for business rates, seek professional advice from a chartered surveyor that specialises in rural property matters. They will be able to advise you of whether it is worth appealing against the VOA’s decision. However, it’s worth remembering that on appeal you may end up paying more.

Alternatively, if your rateable value is less than £12,000, you may be able to apply for small business rate relief, which offers a tapering reduction of 50 per cent rates down to £6,000, thereafter its 100% relief until March 2016.

If you receive a visit from a valuation officer, ensure that you have the right professional representation in place before allowing them to inspect your property.

For more information on the law surrounding business rates and stables, call Julie on 01768 254 354.