September 5, 2023
Our September 2023 summary of the latest developments in Property law and practice is as follows:
Register of Overseas Entities
1 August 2023 marked a year since the opening of the Register of Overseas Entities. This means that the annual updating duty will begin to fall due for registered overseas entities.
Per section 8 of the Act, the sanctions if a registered overseas entity fails to comply with the updating duty is a fine and, for continued contravention, a daily default fine not exceeding the greater of £2,500 and one half of level 4 on the standard scale.
For property purposes, an overseas entity who fails to comply with the updating duty “is not to be treated as being a registered overseas entity until it remedies the failure”. This means that the entity would be in the same position as an overseas entity that had not registered: it would be unable to apply for registration of title to any newly acquired “qualifying estate” (i.e., freehold estate or lease for more than seven years) and would be unable to comply with the restriction on disposition appearing in the title of properties it already owns.
Under section 78 of the Building Safety Act 2022, higher risk buildings in England must be registered with the Building Safety Regulator. Higher-risk buildings are defined by section 65 BSA 2023 to mean a building in England that is at least 18 metres in height or has at least 7 storeys and contains at least 2 residential units.
The Building Safety Act 2022 (Commencement No. 4 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2023 (SI 2023/362) brought sections 78(1), (3), (4) and (5) (dealing with the registration of higher-risk buildings) came into force on 6 April 2023. The Building Safety (Registration of Higher-Risk Buildings and Review of Decisions) (England) Regulations 2023 (SI 2023/315) provide detail to the requirements for the registration of higher risk buildings.
Under section 78 BSA 2023, the principal accountable person (defined at sections 72 and 73) is responsible for registering the building. In practice, it will be the building owner or management company. That person commits an offence if the building is occupied but not registered by 30 September 2023. New buildings completed on or after 1 October 2023 must have a relevant completion certificate or final notice. They must be registered before residents can occupy them.
Electronic Communications Code - unresponsive occupiers
The Department of Science, Innovation and Technology is consulting on its intention to implement section 67 of the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Act 2022, which will insert a new Part 4ZA into the Electronic Communications Code. The consultation runs until 4 September 2023. The aim of Part 4ZA of the code is to enable the court to make an order imposing an agreement on a landowner granting time-limited code rights in favour of an operator, for the purpose of providing an electronic communications service to premises where the occupier or another person with an interest in the relevant land has not responded to repeated notices given.
Avoidance and evasion of Business Rates
HM Treasury and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities have published on open consultation on business rates avoidance and evasion. The consultation runs until 28 September 2023. The consultation focuses on specific measures to reform empty property rates relief to address known avoidance schemes, often involving avoid repeated short periods of artificial or contrived occupation to enable repeated access to the relief to be obtained. It also seeks to gather evidence on wider avoidance and evasion practises.