Single occupancy council tax qualifies residents for a 25 per cent discount on their council tax bills. For this reduction to be in effect it is essential that either the claimant lives alone in their house or is the only adult in the house. This means that even if there are other occupants, they are younger than 18 years of age. 

What Happens When Someone Is Falsely Claiming Single Occupancy Council Tax?

If someone is caught making a false claim to avail of council tax discounts, they may face legal action enforced by local council authorities and will be asked to pay their dues as per their actual living arrangements. This means that council tax fraud not only leads to legal prosecution but also an inflated future bill as the council aims to recover the entire amount of discount that the resident had been falsely claiming.

If someone claims to be the sole occupant of a property or the only adult on the premises while it is not a fact, they are presenting a false claim to avail single occupancy discount on their council tax bills. Sometimes, people fail to inform local councils of changes to the occupancy status in their homes; forgetting the fact that local councils do not rely completely on the information provided to them by residents. They also carry out checks and visits to verify information shared by residents; sometimes through third-party information as well.

According to research on Checks on single person households to ensure people are paying the correct council tax around £90 million of fraudulent council tax discount is claimed annually on single occupancy status in the UK.

To learn more about council tax fraud, we will discuss the following in this article:

  • How Do Local Councils Deal With Fraudsters?
  • What Happens When Council Investigates For Fraud?
  • Can I Lose Benefits If Found Guilty Of Council Tax Fraud?
  • What Is A Single Person Discount On Council Tax?
  • Does My Partner Need To Pay Council Tax If They Are Staying Over?

How Do Local Councils Deal With Fraudsters?

Council tax fraud includes any false claims that a resident declares before local authorities. This may include a false claim of single occupancy status, pretending to be a student while one is not or failure to declare any other circumstances that no longer count the resident as eligible for a council tax reduction.

To maintain a check and balance and verify residents’ claims, local councils carry out regular checks and visits to residents’ homes. They are also authorised to verify this information through third-party checks. This may include matching of data through reference agencies to cross-check information or access to financial records such as bank statements.

However, such steps are usually taken when there is reason to suspect particular cases. Whenever there is sufficient evidence as a result of investigations, the fraudsters face legal prosecution. Additionally, local councils are authorised under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to recover the falsely claimed amount.

What Happens When Council Investigates For Fraud?

As the council authorities commence their investigations for fraud, the first step is that they will ask the suspect to appear for an “interview under caution”. Whether or not one is guilty, it is advisable to take support from a legal advisor at this stage. The suspect does not have the option of a non-appearance for this interview.

If there is sufficient evidence against the suspect, they will be asked by the council authorities to pay a penalty. It is best to clear one’s dues as in the other option, one may be taken to court for recovery of dues. In addition to this, you may lose any benefits (for a period of up to 3 years) that you were previously receiving.

It is advisable to consult the nearest Citizen’s Advice prior to the interview. You may contact them here Contact us 

Can I Lose Benefits If Found Guilty Of Council Tax Fraud?

Yes, if there is substantial evidence to prove a suspect is guilty of council tax fraud, they will lose access to many benefits. While there are certain exceptions to this rule, “sanctionable benefits” can be reduced or completely stopped for up to three years. These include:

  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Industrial Death Benefit
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Reduced Earnings Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Retirement Allowance
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Widowed Mother’s/Parent’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Industrial Injuries Unemployability Supplement
  • War Disablement Pension
  • War Widow’s Pension
  • War Pension Unemployability Supplement
  • War Pension Allowance for Lower Standard of Occupation

However, the following benefits remain unaffected by the fact that an individual has been found guilty of benefit fraud. They are neither reduced nor stopped:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Guardian’s Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Constant Attendance Allowance 
  • Industrial Injuries Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance 
  • War Pension Constant Attendance Allowance
  • War Pension Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Social Fund Payments
  • War Pension Mobility Supplement
  • Bereavement Support Payment
  • Child Benefit
  • Graduated Retirement Benefit
  • Statutory Adoption Pay
  • Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Statutory Paternity Pay
  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Christmas Bonus
  • State Pension

What Is A Single Person Discount On Council Tax?

If you live alone or are the only adult in the household, you are eligible for a 25 per cent discount on your council tax bills (irrespective of your income or savings). This is a single person discount on council tax. To avail of this discount, you must inform your local council office of your circumstances so that your bills may be adjusted appropriately. To apply for a council tax benefit, click here Apply for Council Tax Reduction – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Does My Partner Need To Pay Council Tax If They Are Staying Over?

Whether or not your partner/girlfriend/boyfriend/friend(s) need to pay council tax while staying over at your place depends on the duration and nature of their stay. If they have their own place and a council tax bill to their name, whether they stay over weekends or stay over at your place for a few weeks will not affect your council tax bill or any discounts that you are eligible for such as council tax reduction due to single occupancy. 

However, should their stay be extended enough or frequent enough that your home becomes their main residence, you may lose your single-occupant discount if you were previously eligible for. If they don’t have another property to declare as their main residence or they don’t have a council tax bill to their name, you might lose your council tax discount due to their extended stay. Unless you inform your local council office of the change in your living conditions and your partner contributes to your council tax bill which would be charged in full.

If your partner spends more than 6 months in a year at your place, they may consider adding your home as their main residence and applying for a second home discount on their own premises. For this, you may require to consult your respective local council offices to learn about each council’s taxation and discount schemes in this regard. They will also guide you on the required documentation and/or evidence that may be required to proceed with such an application. Find your local council website to learn more about your council tax dues in particular situations.

Conclusion:

False claim of a council tax benefit bears serious consequences; so much so that considering the legal fee involved in defending oneself once found guilty, the defaulting party ends up paying much more in actual than they might have saved with a falsely claimed discount.

If the reason for not being able to pay council tax bills and thus having to prove false claims is a financial hardship, it is best to inform your local council office of the financial difficulties you are facing. They may be able to design a more relaxed payment plan for you, offer you discounts or if you are eligible for a council tax reduction due to low income, you may be able to avail of a benefit in a rightful manner

FAQs: What Happens When Someone Is Falsely Claiming Single Occupancy Council Tax?

How Long Can Someone Stay Without Paying Council Tax?

If someone is staying over at your house while maintaining their council tax payments at their own residence, there is no amount of council tax payment due upon them. If they are living with you as a carer or because they need to be taken care of, either of you may be eligible for a council tax reduction or sometimes complete exemption. It is best to take advice from your local council authorities with regards to any changes in living arrangements.

How to report someone to the Council?

You may simply call the local council number to inform them of suspicious behaviour or suspected fraud. They will take all the details from you. However, you are not required to share your name and address.

What happens when you report a benefit cheat?

The council takes action by gathering evidence that is based upon your report. Once they have done so, the fraudster will be asked to appear for an “interview under caution” after which legal proceedings for recovery of dues will commence. If the defaulting party refuses to or is unable to clear their dues, they might be sentenced to prison.

What does DWP do if investigating?

They gather evidence through one to one checks as well data gathering through third-party resources. They have abundant resources and authority in this regard to gather pieces of evidence prior to taking any legal action,

Can I find out who reported me to DWP?

Neither is the DWP obliged to disclose the identity of the complainant nor would they be aware of it in certain cases. Sometimes anonymous calls are made to inform of benefit fraud; however, the caller is not required to disclose their name and identity.

References:

Reporting fraud and how we deal with it – Newham Council

Checks on single person households to ensure people are paying the correct council tax

Check what changes you need to report if you’re getting Council Tax Reduction

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction fraud

If you’ve been invited to an interview under caution for benefit fraud

Benefit fraud

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