Council Tax Liability
Council Tax liability is governed by a strict hierarchy for any particular dwelling. These rules are strongly dependent on a person's residency status and identify a number of categories into which people may fall. The liable person is whoever comes within the first category to apply taking them in order.
The categories are:-
1. residents who have a freehold interest in the whole or any part of the property;
2. residents who have a leasehold interest (including an assured shorthold tenancy) in the whole or any part of the property (or the superior leasehold interest if there are tenants with different leasehold interest);
3. residents who are statutory or secure tenants of the whole or any part of the property;
4. residents who have a contractual licence to occupy the property or any part of it;
5. other residents; or
6. non-resident owners of the property.
Please note that for the purposes of item 6 above, an “owner” in relation to any dwelling is someone who holds a material interest in the whole or any part of the dwelling. A “material interest” is further defined as a freehold interest, or a leasehold interest which was granted for a term of six months or more. It therefore follows that in the case of a six month shorthold tenancy, for the purposes of Council Tax, it is the tenant who will be classified as the “owner”.
A resident is someone aged 18 or over who lives in the dwelling as their only or main home. If the description fits more than one person, then each person is jointly and severally liable with the others, which means that any one of them, or all of them, can be required to pay the full amount of Council Tax payable. Each person is liable for the full proportion of the Council Tax.
Joint and several liability also applies to husbands and wives resident in the same dwelling and to unmarried couples living as husband and wife. Some people are excluded from joint liability such as 'students' and the 'severely mentally impaired'.
In certain circumstances, set out below, it is the owner of a property who is liable, not the people who live there:
- Residential care homes, nursing homes and some hostels
- Residences that are occupied by more than one household (a house of multiple occupation) and the residents pay rent separately for different parts of the dwelling, or specially built or altered so that people of different households can live in them
- Residences of Ministers of Religion
- Residences of religious communities
- Residences of domestic servants
- Residences of asylum seekers.
If you are a full time student resident in a property, along with another adult, who is not a student and who holds an identical interest in the property to you i.e. joint owner, joint tenant or joint resident, you will no longer be liable for the Council Tax. If, however, you hold a greater interest in the property and the other resident is not a student, then you will still be the person liable for the charge.
For more information you may wish to go to our pages relating to students.
Civil Partnership Act 2004
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 has implications for Council Tax legislation, for example providing for (same sex) civil partners to be jointly and severally liable for Council Tax in the same way as married couples.