1. At the outset, if you are running a business at a premises, then you have the liability in law to pay the rates. If the premises were occupied before you leased them, then that other person owes the liability for the rates. If the premises were unoccupied for a period, then an exemption could be applied for. In so far as rates are concerned, you can call for an assessment to be made if you believe them to be too high. The attitude of many Councils is simply to make a demand and then seek payment through their solicitors, without seeing what the situation is on the ground. If a proper rates assessment is made, the level of the rates often is not so high.
2. Be aware that a lease does not have to be in writing to exist. However, there must be some evidence in writing for it to be proved in court or be binding in law. YOur landlord might have a tax problem if he has not declared all the monies he has received from you and may be amenable to some agreement on rates, as if the premises were not leased, then he would have the potential liability for rates - subject to an exemption which might be applied for if there was no business there.
3. If there is some evidence in writing, as there clearly is in relation to payment, this is sufficient written evidence to prove the lease. Accordingly, even though the lease itself is not in writing, it is sufficient that there is evidence in writing of the lease, as here.
4. Just because you have had no contact with the Council, this does not mean that you don't pay rates. This might enable you to negotiate a payment plan. The on us on you to pay the rates when they are due. However, be aware that Councils are cash-strapped, and are adopting a bolshie approach to rates at the moment as their budgets are totally out of line. If you want the issue of employment taken into account, then you are better off negotiating your situation with some county Councillor who may have some influence with the Rates collector when it comes to dealing with you. Currently, there are a myriad of cases where Councils have rushed to judgment against firms after revising up rates and find that they are putting their rate payers into bankruptcy, as the judgment makes them insolvent. You will find there is no room for negotiation with the Council lawyers. You are better off dealing with it politically.
Best of Luck
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