Countrywide has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak asking for estate agents to qualify for the rates holiday that other high street businesses are getting.
The letter, from chief executive Paul Creffield, says that agents should be treated for business rates purposes in the same way as shops and other high street traders. He also points out that coronavirus is hitting the estate agency industry hard.
ARLA has also repeated its call for action.
CEO David Cox said: “Letting agencies rely on rental payments and therefore the Government must help to ensure agents can maintain their current service levels during any period where rent is not being paid.
“Specifically, we are calling on the Government to extend the retail discount on business rates to estate and letting agents.”
Creffield’s letter says: “Countrywide PLC has 740 branches in high streets throughout the UK employing local people. We trade under local brands such as Bridgfords, Bairstow Eves, Hamptons, Spencers, Morris Dibben etc.
“Overall the group employs in our various businesses 10,000 people. The total tax contribution of the group was £296.4m (2018: £296.4m), which includes both taxes borne of £48.5m (2018: £53m) and taxes collected totalling £247.9m (2018: £243.4m).
“The COVID–19 situation is hitting our business and the estate agency and property services industry heavily so we implore you to treat us in the same way as other high street retailers such as retail stores and cafés for example.
“The guidelines the Government has introduced on business rates we clearly support as an emergency package to ensure businesses can navigate through these uncharted times. We simply ask that A2 users and particularly estate agencies that simply trade on a day-to-day basis with local communities employing local people are treated in the same way.”
His letter concludes: “We sincerely hope this is more of an oversight so plead with you to include with immediate effect estate agents in the retail business rates discount.
“As a large employer in the UK spread across our towns and cities, if we can help you in planning or as an expert advisor in relation to COVID–19 impacts on our industry we are happy to step forward.”