Highest administrative-law court clarifies the role of the property-tax assessment vis-à-vis the duty to connect immovable properties to electricity networks
The Dutch Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal (CBb), which is the highest administrative-law court in the Netherlands, has handed down its ruling in the appeal proceedings on the role of the property-tax assessment (or WOZ decision, in Dutch referred to as: ‘WOZ beschikking’) with regard to the scope of the statutory duty to connect immovable property to an electricity network under the Dutch Electricity Act. System operators are statutorily required to realize one connection for each immovable property. For determining what objects are considered immovable property for legal purposes, the criterion as laid down in the Dutch Valuation of Immovable Property Act (hereafter: WOZ Act) is used.
In its ruling, the CBb deviates from case law such as its ruling of April 13, 2011 (ECLI:NL:CBB:2011:BQ3485 ). It is in line with the conclusion that was requested from the advocate-general. The CBb has now ruled that the property assessment as found in the WOZ decision issued by the municipal executive should not necessarily be the deciding factor in each and every case.
In the context of the system operators’ duty to connect, a rebuttable presumption can only be derived from the WOZ decision. If someone believes that the WOZ decision should not be the deciding factor because of non-compliance with Section 16 of the WOZ Act, then the onus of proof falls on them to make a plausible case that, by making an incorrect property assessment, the municipal executive incorrectly applied Section 16 of the WOZ Act.
In that case, or if no WOZ decision is available, the property that needs to be connected should be assessed on the basis of the criteria set out in Section 16 of the WOZ Act, and on relevant case law.
In the dispute between Coöperatie Nij Altoenae Energie Neutraal 2020 U.A. and Liander N.V., the CBb itself ruled, by applying Section 16 of the WOZ Act, that there was no separate property within the meaning of the WOZ Act, and that Liander was not statutorily required to connect the property in question. This ruling is irrevocable.
In the dispute between Klaas Puul B.V. and Liander N.V., the CBb ordered the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) to hand down a decision within eight weeks, taking into account this ruling.
The CBb’s rulings in these cases, available at www.rechtspraak.nl (in Dutch):