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Who should pay Council Tax?

Who should pay Council Tax?

Council Tax is charged on all domestic properties (dwellings). This includes (but is not restricted to) houses, flats, maisonettes, caravans and houseboats.

There is a set hierarchy that determines who is liable to pay the Council Tax on a particular property. This is as follows:

  1. a resident freeholder
  2. a resident leaseholder
  3. a resident statutory or secure tenant
  4. a resident licensee
  5. any other resident
  6. the owner (if the dwelling doesn’t have any residents)

A “resident” is someone aged eighteen or over who has their sole or main residence in the dwelling.

An “owner” is a person with a freehold interest in the dwelling, or a leasehold interest granted for a term six months or more. Where there is more than one interest (and the property has no residents), the person holding the most inferior interest is liable to pay the Council Tax. For example, if there is a freeholder and a qualifying leaseholder, it is the leaseholder that is liable.

Working down the hierarchy, the first person meeting one of the criteria is the person liable to pay the Council Tax. If two or more people share this position, they are jointly (and individually) liable. People are also jointly and individually liable if they are married to each other, or live together as husband and wife, or are civil partners, or live together as civil partners.

Notice for landlords and tenants

Where a dwelling is no one’s sole or main residence, it is the owner who is liable to pay the Council Tax, as set out above. In cases where there is a weekly or monthly tenancy (or any tenancy where the notice period is less than six months) the tenant cannot be held liable once they cease to have their sole or main residence in the dwelling. This includes where the original period of an assured shorthold tenancy has expired without another leasehold interest of six months or more having been created.

Liability for owners – special rules

There are some classes of dwelling where the owner, not the resident(s), is liable to pay the Council Tax. These include:

  • residential care homes, nursing homes, mental nursing homes or hostels
  • a dwelling inhabited by a religious community
  • houses in multiple occupation – these are usually occupied by people who do not form a single household and who are entitled to occupy only part of the dwelling or do not pay rent in respect of the dwelling as a whole, for example, bedsits or where people have exclusive use of a bedroom but shared use of other facilities
  • a dwelling used by a Minister of Religion as residence from which he performs the duties of his office; where a Church of England minister owns his own house, the relevant Diocesan Board of Finance will be regarded as the owner
  • a dwelling provided to an asylum seeker

The above explanations only summarise the position regarding liability for Council Tax. Consideration must always be given to the actual legal provisions. Please contact us for further information or to discuss particular circumstances.


Last updated on 26 September 2016