In Provincial Real Estate (Burton) Ltd v. Virk (VO) and East Staffs Borough Council (25 February 2015), the President of the Valuation Tribunal for England has ruled that an appeal against the rating list cannot be used to challenge a completion notice unless brought without delay.  Further, there is no duty of investigation or inspection that a billing authority must fulfil before serving a completion notice.  So long as the authority does not act capriciously or arbitrarily or without honest belief as to the state of the building, the precise steps taken or not taken before service of the notice will be unlikely to affect its validity.  A completion notice will also not be struck down for ambiguity lightly and any slight discrepancy in dates is unlikely to invalidate the notice unless prejudice can be shown to have been caused.

The thread through the judgment is that the completion notice appeal procedure is available to be used by landowners.  If they choose not to use it, a later appeal against the rating list entry brought on the basis of a challenge to the completion notice will face significant hurdles.  Finality is considered to be an essential attribute of justice and fairness.

Jenny Wigley acted for the billing authority, East Staffordshire District Council, in successfully defending the completion notice from challenge.

A full copy of the Judgment, which also contains some useful guidance for billing authorities on the drafting of completion notices, can be found by clicking here.