Exeter, Devon UK • Apr 18, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home NewsLocal News Exeter City Council falls prey to ‘empty box’ scam

Exeter City Council falls prey to ‘empty box’ scam

Oliver Lamb, Print News Editor, writes on the scam currently impacting Exeter
2 mins read
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Image via Derek Harper, Wikimedia Commons

Exeter City Council is estimated to lose £150,000 a year thanks to the so-called empty box scam. The group Ban Box Shifting is campaigning to change the law that makes the practice viable. 

At present, landlords are able to stack cardboard boxes in empty commercial properties to make it look like the space is in use. After six weeks, the boxes are removed. Business rates are not charged for the first three months (for business properties) or six months (for industrial and warehouse properties) that a site is empty. When the exemption ends, landlords stack the boxes for six more weeks to trigger another rates-free period. 

landlords are able to stack cardboard boxes in empty commercial properties to make it look like the space is in use.

Exeter Deputy Lord Mayor and councillor Tess Read is this week asking the council to support a motion against the practice. 

Ban Box Shifting wants the law changed to emulate Wales, where the rates-free period is triggered after six months of occupation rather than six weeks. A number of MPs have signed the group’s open letter to the government. According to Ban Box Shifting, the empty box scam costs British councils £250 million a year, which the group claims could pay for 2000 council homes, 150,000 hospital beds, or 12 secondary schools. 

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