Intermittent Occupation Q&A

Following this year’s budget, there have been changes to the way in which intermittent occupation is managed. Our rates consultant explores these recent legislative changes and explains when intermittent occupation is a suitable option for your property.

  1. What is intermittent occupation?

Intermittent occupation involves taking temporary occupation of an empty commercial property to proactively mitigate the empty business rates which are payable by leaseholders or landlords. Generally speaking, when a property in England first becomes empty it benefits from a three month empty rate exemption, which increases to six months for industrial properties.


  1. What are the key regulations and legislation governing intermittent occupation currently, in comparison to what they had been previously?

The government introduced new legislation effective from 1 April 2024, which increased the empty property relief ‘reset period’ from six weeks to three months. Prior to April 2024, any property that was occupied for six weeks or longer benefitted from a three or six month empty rate exemption. However from April 2024, new legislation was introduced increasing the empty property relief ‘reset period’, before a further empty rate exemption can be awarded, from six weeks to three months. 


  1. Can you give an example of where intermittent occupation would be suitable as a solution for a landlord with a vacant property?

A landlord has an empty property (office) which is due to be converted to residential use once planning consent has been approved by the local authority to allow for the building to be converted from commercial use to residential use. The landlord is currently paying full rates as the initial empty rate exemption has expired, despite having no tenant or rental income. In this case the owner could seek to proactively reduce the business rates liability by temporarily occupying the property for three months in order to benefit from a three month empty rate exemption. Occupation could be by the landlord or a third party.


  1. Looking ahead, what do you foresee as potential future trends or developments in Intermittent occupation and it’s regulatory landscape?

As properties need to be occupied for a minimum of three months to benefit from an empty rate exemption, I expect to see an increase in short term lettings to occupiers within the charity and not for profit sector, which create social impact and benefit local communities where there would otherwise be empty commercial properties. This would also benefit landlords who are keen to reduce their empty business rates liability. The government is looking to consult further on a general anti rates avoidance rule later this year with a decision expected in the summer. Beyond this it remains to be seen whether further changes will be introduced, however it is worth noting that in Wales for example, legislation was introduced in April 2022, which resulted in the empty property relief ‘reset period’ being increased from six weeks to six months. This means that properties need to be occupied for six months before a further three or six month empty rate exemption can be awarded.


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