Existing unoccupied buildings become subject to empty rate liability three or six months after becoming wholly unoccupied.
In the case of newly constructed buildings, and of new buildings created by the alteration of existing buildings, the billing authority is required to determine a completion day, in accordance with section 46A of and Schedule 4A to the Local Government Finance Act 1988.
The billing authority is required to serve a completion notice if it comes to the authority's attention that a building can reasonably be expected to be completed within 3 months. The billing authority may also issue a completion notice if it comes to the authority's attention that a building has been completed, but is not required to do so.
This procedure for determining a completion day requires that the authority serve a notice (a 'completion notice') on the owner of the building, unless the valuation officer otherwise directs in writing. The 'owner', for the purpose of service of completion notices, is "the person entitled to possession of the building".
The significance of the date determined to be the completion day is that the initial three or six month exemption period will start to run on that day, and that the liability will commence three or six months later unless occupation sooner commences or one of the other exemptions applies.
Completions notices must specify the building to which they relate and must state the day which the billing authority proposes as the completion day. The day stated will be the date of deemed effective service of the notice where the building is found to be complete at that date or, where the building is not complete but it appears to the authority that it could be completed within three months, a date by which it is considered that the building could reasonably be expected to be completed.
Paragraph 9(2) OF Schedule 4A makes provision for the case of a building to which work remains to be done which is customarily done to a building of the type in question after the building has been substantially completed. In these circumstances, it is to be expected to be, completed at the end of such period beginning with the date of its completion apart from the work as is reasonably required for carrying out the work.
A completion notice may be withdrawn by the billing authority by the service of a subsequent notice, but where an appeal has been brought against the original notice, withdrawal is dependent upon the written consent of the owner of the building to which the notice relates.
Alternatively, if the person on whom the completion notice is served agrees, in writing, that a day specified by the agreement shall be the completion day, that day is to be the completion day. In the event of such an agreement being reached, the completion notice is to be deemed to have been withdrawn.