ARLA Propertymark wants the government to make the current business rates exemption for High Street branches permanent.
The exemption, introduced in the spring as part of the Coronavirus measures announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, is scheduled to end in March.
At the start there was a substantial debate, led by Propertymark, to ensure agents’ branches had the exemption, which was initially aimed only at other retail outlets.
“We welcomed the decision that letting agency offices that closed because of Covid-19 measures to restrict the spread of the virus will be exempted from business rates in 2020-21” says ARLA Propertymark in its submission to the government’s current consultation on business rates.
The association continues: “In September, 85 per cent of our members surveyed agreed that estate agents and letting agents should receive the business rates relief available to retail premises.”
The response emphasises that with High Streets now suffering badly from vacant properties and uncertainty over the future of some retailers, it’s more important than ever that agency branches have financial stability and incentives.
“Property agents have long been a bedrock of the local high street and in light of recent events, we believe that estate and letting agent business should be able to continue to access the existing and proposed business rates relief available for retail” says the association’s reponse.
The response document - which you can see here - is critical of online agencies which do not have a level playing field with traditional High Street agencies.
It suggests onliners could pay additional tax or other contributions “because the increased costs associated with operating in the property sector, coupled with liability for business rates that others on the high street are not subject to, are forcing agents to close their public facing High Street agencies”.