Rating Manual - Volume 3 - Section 4: Estimated Assessments

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Section 4: Estimated Assessments

1. Requests for Estimated Assessments

1.1 General

This section relates to the provision of estimated assessments for proposed non-domestic development. Estimates can be for proposed new properties or alterations, part demolitions or improvements to existing properties.

Following the introduction of the Rates Retention scheme, requests for valuation estimates may be received from local authorities to assist with forecasting future revenue. Developers and potential ratepayers may also request valuation estimates to assist with their financial planning. Before providing estimates, the VO must be satisfied that the person making the request:

  • is the relevant billing or relevant precepting authority,
  • the actual or prospective owner or occupier of the property or
  • a person duly authorised to act on behalf of one of the above, such as a rating surveyor or estate agent.

Requests for estimated assessments should be made in writing and accompanied by sufficient information to allow an estimate to be provided. The information required will include plans.

1.2 Need for Caution

Clearly the better the information the more reliable the estimate will be. An estimate must not be given if the VO considers that insufficient details upon which to make a reliable valuation estimate have been supplied.

Valuation advice and estimates should not be made verbally or in response to verbal requests. This is particularly pertinent where an enquiry is of a speculative nature motivated by an attempt to reduce rates or tax payable on empty property.

Equally, VOs should not engage in any discussion about the possible different ways in which a site might be developed to obtain the best rental income or the highest or lowest rateable value i.e. there should be no development advice.

(For public sector bodies and other government departments, the VOA's Property Services is able to provide development advice.)

1.3 Timeliness

It is anticipated that valuation estimates generally will be provided within no more than 28 days of receipt. Requests of a more complicated nature, involving specialist property or several potential units of assessment, may require longer to ensure proper consideration is given but those making request should be kept informed of progress.

1.4 Scope

The VO may provide estimated assessments for potential new hereditaments or for potential developments to an existing hereditament within the ambit of 1.1 above. This might include a change of use, reconstitution or part demolition, for example.

2. Additional Requirements

2.1 Plans

Estimates can not be provided without a plan. If a plan is not supplied at the time of the request, the applicant must be asked for the supply or loan of a plan. Ideally, the plan will have been drawn up by an architect or similar to support a planning application. However, a self-drawn plan may be adequate if it includes sufficient information and measurements.

It should be made clear to the applicant that the VO is unable to incur any charge or fee for the loan or the supply of plans.

Where required, advantage should be taken of the Electronic Line Drawing Application (ELDA), electronic survey sheet (ESS) or Cadopia.

2.2 Other Information

The VO should ask for any additional information that would enable better provision of an estimated assessment, including the proposed use of the property if it appears likely to be different from its existing use. Where available, requests for passing or proposed rental information, purchase price and letting terms should be made.

3. Basis of Estimates

3.1 General

The estimated assessment must be based solely on the information and plan(s) provided by the applicant, and any relevant data contained in the VO's existing records. No inspection of the property should normally be made.

3.2 Accuracy and Case Remarks

The VO should endeavour to provide as accurate an estimate as possible. Adequate case remarks should be made showing how the estimate was calculated. Such remarks will be crucial in defending the estimate if it is challenged or becomes the subject of a complaint. These case remarks may also be useful when and if the alterations do take place, and a list alteration is required.

4. Supplying the Estimated Assessment

4.1 Basis and Assumptions (Caveats)

The standard estimate letter (VO7106) or ratepayer version (VO7107) should always be used. The standard letter explains that the estimated assessment is an informal expression of opinion, without prejudice to any list alteration that may eventually be made, and has been arrived at without inspection of the property.

Details of the evidence provided and upon which the estimate is based, the basis of assessment and any particular assumptions made should be included.

Additionally any other caveats which are individual to the estimate provided should be included in the letter.

4.2 Calculating the Estimate

It is important that the request for a valuation estimate is allocated to the appropriate caseworker or referencer at the earliest opportunity. This will be determined by the nature and location of the property and could fall within the responsibility of the local maintenance, appeal or specialist team or, on occasions, NSU.

4.3 Approval of Estimate

All estimates for Local Authorities, or where the estimate is of a sensitive or high value site should be reviewed and approved by a Team Leader. All other estimates can be approved by a Unit Maintenance Manager before Caseowner completes signing and issuing the estimate. Maintenance Managers may choose to deputise to Referencing Managers however they will retain overall responsibility for the estimate being provided and will need to ensure that the work is progressed in accordance with this instruction.   

4.4 Confirmation in Writing

All estimates are to be confirmed in writing using the template (VO7106) or ratepayer version (VO7107) which is in the EDRM case folder. Subject to the usual data security requirements, the estimate can be emailed or sent by post to the applicant. Where an estimate is emailed, it should first be converted to a PDF.

Where an estimate is provided to a local authority, the Rates Retention team should be notified of the figures provided. The Rates Retention team are responsible for liaising with the BAs and will need to be made aware of the estimate provided.

4.5 Return of Plans

Any plan(s) loaned to the VO should be returned to the applicant, after making any necessary copy, unless permission has been given for their retention and that no charge or fee is incurred.

5. Refusing a Request

If the VO is unable to give an estimated assessment, due to insufficient details having been supplied, or, for any other reason, the applicant should be advised accordingly in writing. The Rates Retention team must also be notified if the request has originated from a local authority.

6. Registration and Case Procedures

Instructions on registration and processing of requests for estimated assessments are set out in Section 1 Part 1:11 of the NDR Procedures Manual.

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