Council tax bills are paid each month by residents to their council offices; whether they are tenants or homeowners. Through this blog post, we will learn the details of who is responsible for council tax payments once a tenant leaves a certain property. For a deeper understanding, we will review the list of priorities when it comes to council tax as a liability and explore the responsibilities of tenants when they move to a new property. Alongside this, we will also discuss situations in which council tax discounts and exemptions apply.
Who Is Responsible For Council Tax If Tenant Leaves?
If a tenant leaves a rented property either before the end of their fixed-term tenancy agreement or without formal notice to their landlord, they will remain responsible for council tax and can be chased by authorities to clear council tax debt.
If the property in question is immediately reoccupied by another tenant once the previous one leaves, council tax payments will now become their responsibility.
It is only in the case of a concluded tenancy agreement, the end of a fixed-term contract or the property lying unoccupied, that the responsibility for council tax bills will fall upon a landlord.
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.
Anyone who is above 18 years of age and rents or owns property in England, Scotland or Wales is eligible for council tax payments. Couples sharing premises are jointly liable for their council tax bills; however, anyone of them may be listed to be considered as liable for payments. In the case of a rented property, it is the tenant who is liable to pay council tax.
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.
What Happens To Council Tax If My Address Changes?
There are different answers to this, depending upon the circumstances. While we will analyse each specific situation in detail, as a general rule, it is advisable to inform your local council office of a change in address 21 days in advance; even if this change of address is going to be temporary. If you have not been able to do that and have already moved into another place, you must inform them immediately.
The main reason for this is that as a result of the change in address, you may be eligible for a lower or higher council tax band. If you do not inform your local council of your change in residence, your council tax may be billed incorrectly. The other reason is that you must clear your council tax dues prior to a change of address so that you do not have to face the dire consequences of council tax arrears such as court summons and magistrate visits.
Once you inform the council office of your change in address, it takes them around 20 days to process a new council tax bill, depending upon any major changes such as a change of valuation band for your house or change of council district or the addition/subtraction of council tax benefits if there is a change in your personal circumstances as well along with a change in address.
Can I Move To A New House With Council Tax Arrears?
Yes, there is no legal restriction on a council tax debtor to move to new premises with arrears due towards their previous council.
However, the debt will still remain in their name and will not be transferred to the new owners or tenants. This means that if you have council tax arrears and you move to a new house, you will not only be paying council tax for the new property but will also be obliged to clear your dues concerning the previous premises as well.
The best way to proceed in such a situation would be to inform your local council of your intention to move and work out a mutually agreed payment plan so that after your move to the new premises, the number of your tax bills due does not inflate.
Is Council Tax Included In Rent?
No, as a general rule for sole tenants, council tax is not included in rent and is charged separately and directly by local council authorities. In the case of rare exceptions when a landlord includes the council tax in the tenant’s rent, you must be careful about it being mentioned in the tenancy agreement as well as gathering evidence of timely payments to local authorities. In the case of unpaid council tax, the authorities will question the tenant (and not the landlord) as they are liable to pay council tax.
However, in case a property is occupied by multiple tenants at the same time or you are renting only a specific part of the house, it is best for council tax to be included in the rent as being a joint tenant, one individual cannot be held liable for council tax payments. In such cases, the council tax bill will also be addressed to the landlord’s name and not the tenants’.
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
How Do I Get Council Tax Exemption on an Empty Property?
If a new property is being constructed or an existing one is being refurbished, no council tax will be applicable for the duration of construction/home improvement.
If a property is considered to be derelict; making it impossible to be inhabited, it will be exempted from council tax payment. However, the deterioration of the premises must be due to weather conditions, vandalism or rot. Additionally, the property must require structural refurbishments to be made liveable again.
If the owner of the property has died and it remains unoccupied, there is council tax due on the premises. This discount remains applicable even after probate has been attained. However, once 6 months have passed after the probate, council tax becomes applicable.
A temporary exemption of up to 6 weeks may be applicable in cases where the said property is unoccupied, unfurnished, and listed for sale.
Who Is Eligible For Council Tax Benefits?
To qualify for a council tax benefit certain criteria need 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 on 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.
The discussion in this article makes it clear that even after a tenant leaves a property, they will remain responsible for council tax bills if their name is still on the tenancy agreement or their fixed-term tenancy has not ended by the time they left the premises. Council authorities will follow up with them for council tax arrears even when tenants move out of a property with uncleared dues.
FAQs: Who Is Responsible For Council Tax If Tenant Leaves?
What do I do about council tax when I move house?
You must clear your council tax dues at the previous house and inform them of your new address. If you are moving into a different council district, inform the local authorities there, of your new address so that they may start sending you council tax bills on schedule. If there is a delay in communication, you may have to pay accumulated dues on your council tax bills at both ends.
How do you change your council tax when you move?
You must inform your local council office at least 21 days prior to the move. If you haven’t been able to do so, you must inform them on an immediate basis. You can contact them through a phone call or email or you may click on the “change of address” page on your local council’s website where you can inform them.
Do renters in the UK pay Council Tax?
Yes, renters or tenants are liable for the house that they are living in as long as they are the sole owners. If they have partially rented out a property or there are multiple tenants in the same property, the landlord can add the council tax to the tenant’s rent and pay the council tax bill.
Is a landlord liable for unpaid council tax?
Unless the council tax bill appears in the landlord’s name they are not liable for unpaid council tax. Tenants with council tax arrears can be tracked down by council authorities as they remain liable for unpaid council tax even if they move homes.
Does everyone in a house pay council tax?
Any individual, over the age of 18 years, whether a homeowner or tenant, employed or unemployed, is eligible to pay their council tax bills to the local council office. Usually, one person is considered the prime point of contact and is “liable” to pay council tax bills.