This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.

Constituents can check whether their property is on the council tax list, and what its band is, on the website (for England and Wales) or the Assessors website (Scotland).

The property I’m renting?

Most likely yes. A person occupying a property is liable to pay council tax on it.

If other liable people are living in the house, each of them will be jointly and severally liable for the council tax. This means that, if one person fails to pay, the council can ask each person to pay the full amount, not just their ‘share’.

if someone is renting a room in a house in multiple occupation (HMO), the landlord is liable for the council tax. The landlord might say that a portion of the rent is in respect of council tax, but that is part of the rental contract, not part of the council tax system.

NOTE that a council tax HMO isn’t necessarily the same as a ‘registered HMO’. People who live in a ‘registered HMO’ might still be liable for council tax. Whether a house is a council tax HMO is a decision for the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), not the council.

My student house?

No, provided that the resident is a student. If everyone in the house is a student, the house is exempt from council tax.

If non-students live in the house, they will have to pay council tax. In this scenario the students can’t be held jointly and severally liable for the council tax due.

If there is only one non-student in the house, they will receive the 25% single person discount, as the council tax system ‘sees’ only one person living in the house.

The bedsit I’m living in?

Maybe. There are a few alternative situations:

  • The bedsit is registered as a separate property with its own council tax band. In this case, it is a property like any other and the resident will have to pay.
  • The bedsit is not registered as a separate property. The house that it is within has a single council tax band. In this case, everyone who occupies the property will be jointly and severally liable for the council tax – unless….
  • The bedsit is not registered as a separate property and the house that it is within is a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) for council tax purposes. In that case, the landlord will be liable, as with some other HMO properties described above.

My caravan?

  • Possibly yes. In the council tax system, static caravans are properties like any other property. They can be assigned their own council tax band, and discounts and exemptions may apply to them. This doesn’t apply to a caravan that is located on the driveway of another property.
  • It is also possible for a caravan site to be liable for business rates, instead of the caravans on it being liable for council tax. This is normally the case where there is a residency restriction on the site.
  • In this scenario, the site owner might ask for a payment from caravan owners in respect of business rates. However, this type of payment is a consideration alongside the rent, not part of the business rate system.

The property I’m doing up, but not living in?

Maybe. In England, councils do not have to give any discounts on properties that are empty because they are being renovated. The owner may find that they have to pay the normal council tax bill, even if the renovations are such that the house is uninhabitable. In Scotland and Wales, renovated properties can be exempt for up to twelve months. It is up to the local authority to decide whether a property qualifies for this exemption.

A house that is being renovated could also be liable for an empty homes premium. This can be payable if a house has been ‘unoccupied and substantially unfurnished’ for one year or more (Scotland and Wales) or two years or more (England). Note that the premium applies according to how long the house has been empty, not how long the current owner has owned the house. It is possible to buy a property and then have to pay a higher level of council tax immediately. (This situation would not show up on standard legal searches during the purchase.)

The rental flat that I own, where the tenant has just left?

Maybe. Councils do not have to give any discount on properties that have become empty. Some councils exempt empty properties for very short periods of time, others for up to six months. It is possible that a landlord could have to pay council tax for, say, a period of three weeks between tenants while a property was empty. This could be the case even if the property was being refurbished during that time.

If a tenant had moved out but their rental contract was still in place, it is possible that the tenant could still be liable for council tax until the rental contract ended.

My granny annexe?

Sometimes. An annexe can be assigned its own council tax band if the council tax system deems it to be a ‘self-contained unit’ and ‘capable of separate occupation’. This is a decision for the VOA or the Assessors, not the council.

Whether an annexe is a ‘self-contained unit’ depends on the characteristics of the annexe itself. Planning permission for the annexe, or who owns it, does not play a role in the decision.

If an annexe is treated as a separate property, and is being occupied by a ‘dependant relative’, it is exempt from council tax. It is also exempt if it is empty, provided that it cannot be let separately.

In England, if the annexe is being used as part of the main property, it may still have its own council tax band. In this case, the annexe will normally receive a 50% discount on the council tax bill.

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