Who is liable to pay council tax?
The liable person is the person whose name appears on the council tax bill. In most cases this is the person occupying the property. There can be one liable person or multiple, depending on the circumstances.
The following list (referred to as the ‘hierarchy of liability’) is used to work out who is liable. The person appearing nearest the top of this list is the liable person. If more than one person appears at the same level (e.g. joint owners or tenants), they will all be ‘jointly and severally liable’ (explained below).
The hierarchy of liability is as follows:
- A freehold owner/occupier living in the property
- A leasehold owner/occupier living in the property
- A tenant living in the property
- A person living in the property who is a licensee (not a tenant, but has permission to stay there)
- Any person living in the property (this includes people living in the property with or without permission of the owner)
- An owner of the property, where the property is unoccupied
When checking who is liable, start from the top of the list. If no one occupying the property meets that description, move down to the next level, and so on until someone meets the description. The person(s) who meet this description will be liable. If no one is occupying the property, the owner of the property will be liable.
Joint and several liability
Where two or more people fall into the same category in the hierarchy, they are jointly and severally liable. This means they do not each pay their share of the bill, but that they are jointly responsible for ensuring the bill is paid. If the bill is unpaid, we can pursue any or any number of the liable persons for payment.
If a liable person has a spouse who lives at the property, that person will be jointly and severally liable regardless of if they are at the same level in the hierarchy.
If someone is disregarded for the purposes of being a student or severely mentally impaired, they will be removed from the council tax liability. Evidence must be provided. Find further information on discounts and disregards.
In certain circumstances, the owner(s) of the property will be liable regardless of who lives there. This includes:
- Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO), e.g. a house shared by a number of different people who all pay rent for separate rooms, rather than the property as a whole
- Where the property is occupied only by persons under the age of 18
- Where the property is accommodation for asylum seekers
- Properties which are care homes, hospitals or hostels
- Properties lived in by religious communities (e.g. monasteries or convents) or properties inhabited by a minister of religion from which they perform their duties
- Some properties with resident staff
Frequently asked questions
- My tenancy agreement says the council tax is included in my rent, who is liable?
Any agreement between tenant and landlord regarding payment of council tax is a third-party agreement and does not override council tax legislation. If the tenancy agreement is for the whole property, the tenant is liable for the council tax, regardless of any agreement with the landlord. The landlord can however make payment for the council tax on the tenants’ behalf, though the bill must remain in the name of the tenant.
- I have paid my half of the council tax, though my flatmate hasn’t paid their share. What happens now?
If two or more people are at the same level in the hierarchy, they are jointly and severally liable for the charge. It is therefore your joint responsibility to ensure the bill is paid. If the bill remains unpaid, the council may seek to recover the council tax from any or any number of the liable persons.
- I’ve moved house, how do I amend my liability?
Please select the Council Tax General Form and complete a moving house form . All forms you may require to amend your liability can be found by selecting the Council Tax General Form. You may also submit a query should you not be able to find the information you are looking for on our website.
If you have an enquiry about council tax, send a message to the Revenues Team.