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Lawbite: ATMs no longer paying out for business rates

  • United Kingdom
  • Litigation and dispute management
  • Real estate
  • Real estate dispute resolution
  • Real estate litigation - LawBite

26-05-2020

Cardtronics Europe Ltd and Others -v- Chris Sykes and Others (Valuation Officers) [2020] UKSC 21

In 2018 we reported on the Court of Appeal’s decision that ATMs  located in supermarkets are not to be treated as their own separate hereditaments for rating purposes. This was good news for the ATM operators, who collectively anticipated a rates refund of c£300 million.

The Supreme Court has now upheld the Court of Appeal‘s decision. It is a decision which has been championed as helping to preserve access to cash.

To recap, the issue was whether the ATMs (or to be more accurate, the space occupied by ATMs) should be considered as separate hereditaments for rating purposes, distinct from the supermarket itself.

This question came down to consideration of who is in ‘paramount occupation’ of the ATM sites? Is it the ATM operator, or does the supermarket retain sufficient control such that it should be considered as the primary occupier.

In reaching its decision that the supermarket retained sufficient control to be the primary occupier, the Court of Appeal had placed significant emphasis on the provision of an ATM being complimentary to the operation of the supermarket:

“Both parties derive a direct benefit from the use of the site for the same purpose and share the economic fruits of the specific activity to which the space is used”

The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeal that this was sufficient to lead to a conclusion that the supermarket retained a sufficient degree of control and that the ATM sites should not be considered as forming separate hereditaments.

Key points:

  • this is a decision which has been welcomed as likely to help preserve access to free to use ATMs, and therefore should be welcomed by the public and retailers, albeit the decision does come at an immediate cost to the public purse
  • the Supreme Court ruling provides detailed guidance on the concepts of rateable occupation and what is meant by being in ‘general control’ and ‘paramount occupation’

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