High Court ruling to boost rent valuation appeals

Premises Judge rules that rent appeals system is 'biased'.

A large primary care property company has won a landmark verdict that is expected to allow GPs who own their own premises to increase their notional rent valuations.

The system used by the NHS to settle disputed valuations has been judged in a High Court judicial review to be subject to apparent bias.

Mr Justice McCombe ruled that the advisory process followed by the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) does not look sufficiently independent.

He said the Valuation Office, which advises the NHSLA, is too close to the district valuer, who advises the PCT on a current market rent, for justice 'to be seen to be done'.

The NHSLA is now establishing a new process for settling disputed rent valuations.

Primary Health Properties (PHP), one of the UK's largest GP premises providers with a £356 million portfolio of 113 medical centres, sought the review over the rent for the Hereward Group Practice, in Bourne, Lincolnshire.

'If the judgment is properly acted upon by the NHSLA a fairer, more robust and more transparent system for reviewing current market rent will be implemented,' PHP said.

Harry Hyman, PHP managing director, said: 'We expect an independent appeal process to add firmness and make it more likely that current market rents will be increased.'

Any GP paying a landlord an actual rent higher than the current market rent assessed by the district valuer could also gain.

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden said the High Court judgment was 'helpful'.

'The 2004 regulations are in my opinion defective in terms of appeal processes. We have been waiting for a redraft, which we understand is imminent. Some things were not carried over from the old regulations - it was more cock-up than conspiracy.'

Paul Burns, chief officer of the NHSLA's family health services appeal unit, said its system was one of custom and practice. 'The NHSLA will consider how to proceed,' he said.

prisca.middlemiss@haymarket.com

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