Councillors to review Business Rates for student accommodation

Councillors in Bath and North East Somerset have agreed to undertake a review of whether the owners of large dedicated student accommodation should be subject to Business Rates.

At a Full Council meeting last Thursday 14th November, it was agreed that the issue of whether student accommodation should be subject to the same local taxation as hotels, shops and offices would be looked into further by one of the Council’s Scrutiny Panels.

Although the issue is a matter for national Government to decide, Councillors felt the issue needed to be debated due to the increasing number of student accommodation blocks in the area.

On a proposal put forward by Independent Councillor June Player and Seconded by Conservative Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones, it was agreed:

  • To refer the matter to the relevant PD&S panel for their study and consideration, together with any relevant officer reports, with the subject to be considered by PD&S as a matter of priority.
  • And that the PD&S Panel, as part of their deliberations, is specifically asked to consider:
    • asking local MPs to lobby the Government to fully compensate the Council for the Council Tax lost from student properties, recognising the tax the Government already receives from landlords of rental properties.
    • The possibility of asking Government to allow the owners/landlords of student accommodation to be charged Business Rates, including any advantages or disadvantages of such a move.

The motion was passed with the support of Conservative, Labour and Independent Councillors, but opposed by Liberal Democrats.

Following the meeting, Conservative Group Leader Cllr Tim Warren said:

“Clearly those in full time education should not have to pay Council Tax.

“However, many residents question why the owners of large student accommodation blocks aren’t subject to the same Business Rates that other businesses are, such as offices, hotels and shops, despite them clearly being a commercial operation.

“Not only does this mean that they are making no contribution to Council services, but it can often also make it more attractive for developers to build student accommodation than much-needed employment space or family homes.

“This is a complex issue and there may be no straightforward solution, but it’s right that it is looked into further, so I’m pleased the majority of Councillors agreed to refer the issue to a scrutiny panel for closer consideration.”