Who should pay?

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The list below shows, in order of priority, who has to pay the council tax in a particular dwelling. The person who falls into the highest category on the list is liable for payment (1 being the highest). 

  1. A resident
  2. A resident freeholder
  3. A resident leaseholder
  4. A resident tenant
  5. A resident licensee
  6. The owner (unoccupied property)

A resident is a person aged 18 years or over who occupies the dwelling as their only or main home.

If the dwelling is unoccupied, or the people there do not occupy the dwelling as a sole or main residence, then the non-resident owner will be liable. In certain instances, however, the owner is always the liable person (see separate note below on owner liability)

Owner liability 

When there are no residents in a property the non-resident owner is liable to pay the council tax.

If the owner lives in the same property as their tenant (such as a lodger) only the owner would be liable for the council tax.

Additionally the owner is always liable to pay the council tax in the following classes, even if there are tenants resident at the property:

  • Class A - A residential care home, nursing home or hostel
  • Class B -  A dwelling inhabited by religious communities, for example monks and nuns
  • Class C -  A dwelling inhabited by numerous tenants or licensees. This is usually referred to as a house in multiple occupation (see separate note below on houses in multiple occupation)
  • Class D - A dwelling inhabited by resident staff employed for domestic services that is occasionally occupied by the employer
  • Class E - A dwelling inhabited by a minister of religion in order to perform the duties of their office
  • Class F - A dwelling provided to an asylum seeker or under section 95 of the Immigration Asylum Act 1999

Houses in multiple occupation (HMO)

A house in multiple occupation is any type of dwelling which:

  • was originally constructed or has been adapted for occupation by people who do not make up a single household; or
  • is occupied by one or more people, each of whom
    • is a tenant or licensee of part only of the house/flat; or
    • has a licence to occupy the dwelling as a whole but who does not pay rent or licence fee for the whole dwelling

When determining whether a property should be classed as a house in multiple occupation, we will assess a number of factors such as:

  • tenancy agreements
  • rent being paid
  • use of communal areas
  • type of household and the relationships between occupiers
  • locks on bedroom doors

For most properties that fall under the HMO definition it is the rental arrangements that determine whether the landlord/owner or the tenants are liable for council tax.

As a general rule, a property will be classed as a HMO with the landlord/owner liable where each tenant has their own tenancy agreement and only pays rent for part of the property.

In most cases the tenants will be liable where there is only one tenancy agreement, with all the tenants names included for the whole of the property, and all of the rent due.

Sometimes this decision can only be made once all the relevant information is obtained from the owners, agents or tenants.

Joint and several liability

Where more than one person has the same legal interest in the property (such as joint owner, joint tenants or simply joint residents) each person will be held liable to pay the whole council tax charge.

Married couples and people living together as partners are considered to be jointly and severally liable (whether or not they have an equal interest in the property). You are considered the partner of a person if you are husband and wife or living together as husband and wife, or if you are civil partners or living together as civil partners.

If you are jointly and severally liable for the council tax, you are personally responsible for paying the whole of the council tax bill and not just your share of it. If you pay what is considered to be your 'share' but the other person does not pay their 'share' you will still be liable to pay the unpaid portion.

If you are jointly liable, you should make arrangements to ensure that the whole bill is being paid to avoid recovery proceedings being instigated against each liable individual.