The Local Government Act 1946 provides that where a property in a county council or urban local authority is unoccupied on the date of the making of the rate, the owner becomes liable for rates. However, the owner is entitled to a refund if the property is vacant for specified purposes i.e. if the premises are unoccupied for the purpose of additions, alterations or repairs; where the owner is bona fide unable to obtain a suitable tenant at a reasonable rent; and where the premises are vacant pending redevelopment. The collection of rates and the determination of eligibility for a refund in this context are matters for each individual local authority.
The Local Government Act 1946 provided that the owner was entitled to a 100% refund in most local authority areas. Separate legislation governs refunds in the cities of Dublin, Limerick and Cork, where the same criteria for refunds apply but only 50% of the rates paid was refundable.
The Local Government Reform Act 2014 provides for a change to rating law in relation to the refund of rates on vacant properties and gives discretion to the elected members of individual local authorities to vary the level of rates refunds that apply in individual local electoral areas within the authority’s administrative area. This discretion allows elected members to respond to the differing characteristics of the local commercial property markets. The amendment does not make any change to the eligibility or otherwise for refunds as currently provided for in relevant legislation.
The provision commenced with effect from 1 June 2014. The Local Government (Financial and Audit Procedures) Regulations 2014 provide that the decision to alter the rate of refund should be taken at the annual budget meeting and that the rate of refund decided in respect of the relevant local electoral area shall apply to eligible persons for the year to which the budget relates. The absence of a decision to vary the refund means that the existing legislative provisions regarding the rate of refunds apply (either 100% or 50% as set out above).