Rates relief and ‘qualifying facilities’

The Court of Appeal in Belfast recently considered the question of rates relief for persons with disability.

By way of background, the Applicant had applied to the Department for special rates relief in the form of Disabled Persons Allowance.  The application was refused on the grounds that there were no ‘qualifying facilities’ in her home.  The Applicant’s appeal to the NI Valuation Tribunal was successful on the basis that the ramps to the front and back door of her home were facilities necessary to meet her needs and that they were ‘qualifying facilities’ for the purposes of the relevant legislation.

The Department appealed this decision by way of Case Stated to the Court of Appeal.

‘Hereditament’ is a fabulous term derived from the Latin ‘hereditare’ meaning to cause to inherit, in this context, real property.  The case however turned on the construction of the term ‘including’ in the legislation:

This Article applies to—  (a)  a hereditament in which there is a facility which is required for meeting the needs of a person who resides in the hereditament and has a disability, including a facility of either of the following descriptions— (i)  a room, other than a kitchen, bathroom or lavatory, which is wholly or mainly used (whether for providing therapy or for other purposes) by such a person; or (ii) an additional kitchen, bathroom or lavatory… [emphasis added] 

The Court of Appeal considered at length whether the list of facilities specified in the legislation should be construed as exhaustive, before concluding that it was: the purpose of the legislation was to provide rate relief where the rateable value of the property is increased by the presence of the facility required to meet the needs of the person with disability.  

Accordingly, a ramp can not be considered as a ‘qualifying facility’.

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Department of Finance v. Quinn [2019] NICA 41

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