This blog post aims to help in answering the question of what constitutes a separate dwelling for council tax. To learn more about the classification of a separate dwelling or a self-contained unit, we will analyse how the Valuation Office Agency assesses properties and determines which ones can be constituted as separate dwellings so that a separate council tax band, as well as an annual bill, is assigned to them.

What Constitutes A Separate Dwelling For Council Tax?

To constitute a separate dwelling for Council Tax, a property should fulfil the following conditions: 

  • it should either be built or adapted in a way that it can be used as a separate living accommodation
  • it has independent cooking, toilet and washing facilities; that are not linked or shared with the main home 
  • it has its own entrance from the main home; which could either be an external door on the property or a door connecting through a landing or hallway from the main home

However, it does not matter whether or not the dwelling is attached or built separately from the main home. As long as it meets the above-listed conditions, it will be classified as a separate dwelling or annexe for Council Tax purposes.

While some homeowners believe that a unit with shared facilities or one that cannot be sold off on its own does not classify as a separate dwelling; this is not the case. Even if an annexe has shared facilities or even if it is occupied by household members of the main house, it will still be considered a self-contained unit if it is designed for independent living. 

This is the reason why a separate council tax band from the main home will apply to a self-contained unit. In certain conditions and depending on who occupies the separate dwelling or annexe on your property, you may be able to get a Council Tax discount on your annual bill.

A property will be considered as a separate dwelling even if it is not occupied the entire year, the occupant is a household member or they live partially in the self-contained unit and partially in the main house. 

Properties that fall under the classification of a separate dwelling or a self-contained unit include the following:

  • an annexe or “granny flat” that is built to house elderly relatives close to the family in the main house
  • a place of residence provided to wardens in a hostel
  • an accommodation that previously served as servant’s quarter’s in a larger, older property 
  • houses or flats that were previously separate but have been adjoined

How Does The VOA Assess Properties To Constitute Them As A Separate Dwelling?

To constitute a property as a separate dwelling, the Valuation Office Agency or VOA, assesses them in the same manner that any property is assessed. The market value of the property from the year 1991 is calculated and a council tax band is assigned to it.

In the case of a property that may qualify as a separate dwelling, the VOA will further evaluate the property on the following parameters:

  • The physical characteristics and layout of the property should indicate that it is intended to be used as an independent living space.
  • It should not be spread across different areas with some rooms being independent on one side while others are connected through a shared living space or a hallway that leads into the main property.
  • While room or space sharing is not an option for a separate dwelling to be classified as a self-contained unit, entrances and staircases can be shared. Therefore a property doesn’t have to have an independent entrance to be qualified as a separate dwelling.
  • The VOA will also take into consideration that the property in question has its own facilities; which include an area to cook or even a proper kitchen, a bedroom, and a bathroom. Removal of kitchen or bathroom fixtures does not disqualify a property from being considered a separate dwelling. 

How Does Council Tax Apply To A Separate Dwelling?

Self-contained units or annexes are assigned a separate council tax band from the main residence; however, the property evaluation method remains the same. This means that the resident responsible for council tax bills will be issued 2 separate bills for individual properties; one for the main property and the other for a separate dwelling or self-contained unit. Any discount that applies to the main property cannot be applied to the self-contained unit.

Separate dwellings are generally assigned Band A for Council Tax. This means that the lowest rate of Council Tax in the area applies to the property. 

Additionally, you can avail of a 50% discount on your council tax bill for an annexe under the following conditions:

  • the annexe is part of a single property and includes at least one other property
  • the annexe is being used as part of the main residence by the person who is liable to pay council tax
  • a family member occupies the annexe

If you have an annexe or a granny flat on your property, you will be able to get an exemption on council tax under the following conditions:

  • a dependant relative (aged 65 years and above or physically/mentally disabled) living in the annexe
  • it is occupied by students or individuals under 18 years of age
  • it is an unoccupied annexe that cannot be let out on its own

To learn about the council tax due on a separate dwelling or annexe on your property, you should contact your local council office.

Conclusion:

The detailed discussion in this article helps us to conclude the characteristics essential for a property to be constituted as a separate dwelling or self-contained unit for council tax purposes. The main criterion for this classification is the design and layout of the said property. If the property is designed to serve as an independent living space and has its own kitchen and bathroom facilities, it will be considered as a separate dwelling for council tax. This means that there will be two council tax bills issued; one for the main house (based on its allocated band) and one for the separate dwelling; depending on the council tax band that is assigned to it.

References:

How domestic properties are assessed for Council Tax bands – GOV.UK

Council Tax and annexes

Council tax bands and self-contained units

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