How Long Can Someone Stay Without Paying Council Tax?
Council tax is a mandatory payment made to local councils for the community-based services that they provide. It serves as their revenue and helps in necessary payments made for essentials like fire brigades, police, roads, hospitals (to name a few).
Although council tax evasion is not considered to be a criminal offence, it does bear severe consequences upon the defaulter. From losing their state benefits to wage deduction to even jail term of up to three months, council tax debt that is caused without reason leads to an unfavourable impact upon the debtor.
How Long Can Someone Stay Without Paying Council Tax?
If someone is living with you temporarily and they pay council tax on their rented or owned property, they are not liable to pay council tax for your home while they stay with you.
If you are staying at a property (whether temporarily or permanently) that was previously exempted from council tax payments, you may be able to avail of this benefit for a maximum of 6 months.
However, if you were living alone and enjoying the 25 per cent council tax discount, the addition of a lodger must be informed to the local council office as you are no longer eligible for a council tax discount.
As long as an adult owns or rents a property in England, Scotland and Wales, there is no option of evading council tax.
This article will explore the consequences surrounding unpaid council taxes and council tax exemption by discussing the following areas:
- How Can I Avoid Paying Council Tax?
- Who Has To Pay Council Tax?
- Who Is Exempt From Council Tax?
- Who Is Eligible For Council Tax Benefits?
- What Happens When Somone Does Not Pay Their Council Tax Bills?
How Can I Avoid Paying Council Tax?
You cannot avoid paying council tax unless you are qualified for exemption by your local council office. For this purpose one needs to apply for formal exemption and only when the local council approves this, can council tax be avoided. However, there are specific criteria that need to be met to avail of this benefit. These will be discussed in detail as we proceed further with exploring the topic.
In certain situations, individuals may qualify for a council tax reduction; but for that too, a formal application needs to be filed with the local council office. Based on the council’s assessment and approval, residents may qualify for a discount on their council tax bill.
Who Has To Pay Council Tax?
Council tax bills are sent in the name of the person who is registered as the one ”liable” for such bills. This means that even if someone is living with their parents they are not responsible for making council tax payments if they are not considered to be liable for them by the local council office.
Council tax becomes payable upon those who fall under the hierarchy of liability; which looks something like this:
- at the top of the hierarchy is the resident who owns either the leasehold or freehold of the property;
- the second in line is a resident tenant;
- this is followed by a resident who is not a tenant but lives on the property;
- then comes any resident occupying the property;
- and finally, the owner of the property while it remains unoccupied
However, unless the council tax bill is sent to your name, you are not liable to pay.
Who Is Exempt From Council Tax?
Should someone fall under any of the below categories, they will be considered as exempted from having to pay their council tax bills:
- the resident lives in a care home and not their own home
- the resident is under hospital care
- the resident is living somewhere else; providing care to another person
- the resident is in the armed forces
- the resident is in prison (not for non-payment of council tax bills)
- all the residents are full-time students
- all the residents are under 18 years of age
- all the residents are mentally impaired
Then there may be situations that are property-centric; making the premises ineligible for council tax to be applied. These may include:
- the property is used for charity work
- it is an annexe to the main property
- the property is repossessed
- it has been purchased to be demolished
The following link may be helpful to get more information on council tax exemption: Properties exempt from council tax – Council tax discounts, reductions and exemptions – Newham Council
Who Is Eligible For Council Tax Benefits?
To qualify for a council tax benefit certain criteria needs to be met. Following are some examples:
- Two adults who live in the same house qualify to pay full council tax; they may share the bill. However, if a single adult is living in a property by themselves, they may be eligible for a 25 per cent reduction in the bill irrespective of the fact whether they are part-time employees or full-time ones. The same rule applies if an adult is sharing the premises with one or more individuals under the age of 18 years.
- A 50 per cent council tax benefit becomes applicable if all the residents of the household are under 18 years of age. Complete exemption or a 100 per cent discount is applicable if all the residents of the said premises are full-time students.
- Individuals on a low income or those receiving other forms of public support qualify for a 100 per cent discount on their council tax bills. To apply for this exemption, claimants may be homeowners or tenants; they may either be unemployed or working.
To learn more about benefits for individuals on a low income, click here Browse: Benefits and financial support if you’re on a low income – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
What Happens When Somone Does Not Pay Their Council Tax Bills?
If someone is unable to pay their council tax, the first step taken by the council is to send them an official notice asking to clear their dues in the next 7 days. Should they not be able to make up for the missed payment, residents may be asked to pay council tax for the entire year ahead.
Two such reminders may be sent by the council to encourage council tax payments. However, if the resident does not clear their arrears even after receiving the final notice from their local council, legal action may be taken. This includes possession of valuables and in certain cases eviction from residential premises.
Local councils also have the authority to demand the arrears directly from the defaulter’s employers who will deduct the amount from their salary. Furthermore, they may also apply to have the amount deducted from any benefits that the individual receives. These may include:
- Income support
- Employment allowance
- Support allowance
- Jobseeker’s allowance
- Universal credit
- Pension credit
In the rare case that you live in a property exempted from council tax payments, you may not be required to pay council tax. Secondly, if you are staying at a property to take care of someone or someones is staying with you as a carer, you may continue availing of your council tax discount. However, unless your council approves either a discount or an exemption in principle, council tax remains applicable on the property that you occupy.
FAQs: How Long Can Someone Stay Without Paying Council Tax?
How long can you be chased for council tax?
Local authorities may chase you for up to 6 years to recover council tax debt (or the unrecovered part of it). After a time-lapse of this period, council tax debt gets written off.
Is not paying council tax a crime?
No, unpaid council tax does not count as a crime. However, local councils have the authority to send bailiffs/magistrates to your residence for debt recovery. If they are awarded a liability order from the magistrate’s court, council tax debtors may also be sentenced to three months in prison.
Do you have to pay council tax if the property is empty?
This depends upon a number of circumstances. If a property is empty, you may be eligible for a council tax discount and not necessarily a complete exemption. If it remains unoccupied and unfurnished, you may get a council tax exemption for a month. However, if properties are left unfurnished and unoccupied for two years or more, you may be required to pay a premium in addition to the full council tax charged upon them.
How can I live without paying council tax?
You may be exempt from having to pay council tax if you live in a hostel or are under medical care in a hospital or you are living with someone else to take care of them or are being looked after them.
What is classed as living in a property?
While there is no hard and fast rule to this, living in a property is generally acceptable when someone resides there for at least 6 months in a year. The premises must also depict signs of being home to the resident through its usage, furniture and general appearance.