We have just ‘agreed' our rent review, a process that stared in October 2010. To cut a long story short, the district valuer suggested a 14% reduction in our notional rent. This to us seemed very strange, as we had evidence of property valuations on our premises that had clearly gone up in the last three years. Despite our evidence, the district valuer was not prepared to negotiate. He was adamant that the previous valuation had been too high and now he was bringing it back in line. One does wonder how impartial he is when he is paid by the Government to assess how much rent the Government should be paying us.
We took advice from a surveyor who agreed that we had a good case, and so on our behalf they tried to enter negotiations with the district valuer. Again, after several months of failed attempts to negotiate we threatened to resort to the national arbitration process.
It transpired that the original district valuer had now retired, and when a second district valuer looked at the evidence he decided they could not support the proposed reduction in rent. We were delighted then to learn that he had taken a fresh look, and not only was our rent not to be reduced but it went up by 4.5%. This is, of course, very good news for the practice – but our fees for the legal advice amounted to in excess of £22,000.
As clearly an ‘error/misjudgement' was made by the first district valuer, one would think that someone other than the practice should be responsible for the costs incurred and this is a point that we have put to the valuer's office. It does seem strange that we are entirely at the mercy of one person, who is supposedly impartial, who can seemingly decide a figure, refuse to negotiate and cost the practice such a large amount of money.
I would urge other practices to look very closely at their figures – in the short term this was expensive, but there is no doubt that in the long term we will be better off.
From Dr Simon Schultz, Chelmsford, Essex
A spokesperson for NHS North Essex said: "Dr Schultz has very recently made us aware of his observations on the valuation process concerning his practice. We will be contacting Dr Schultz in the near future to discuss his concerns."