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You are here:home > Living > Council Tax > Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

Please use the links below to view the frequently asked questions for students, landlords, and tenants.

Student FAQs

1. Do students have to pay council tax?

If you live in a hall of residence or accommodation which is wholly occupied by full time students, such as a shared student house, the property will be exempt from council tax.

2. Do I have to apply for the exemption or is it automatically granted?

If you live in a hall of residence the exemption is automatic.  If you live elsewhere, you need to notify the council tax office that you live in a student household. In order to claim the exemption the students will need to advise the council tax office that they are registered as full time students. Please complete the Student form.

We have to see proof of their student status. Solent and Southampton Universities provide us with a list of their students. Students at other establishment will need to provide a copy of their student certificate to the council tax office. The certificate can be obtained from their university/college faculty office.

3. What is a student certificate?

A document with your course and registration dates printed on it. You can obtain a copy from your academic registrar/student records department. We need to see original certificates not photocopies.

Solent University and Southampton University will provide the Council with a list of their students. Please advise us if you are a student with Solent University or Southampton University so that your account can be noted and updated once the list is available.

4. What if you start renting before your course starts?

It is common for students to reserve a property before the course commences. Inform the council tax office that you are a student and where you are studying. Solent and Southampton University provide the Council with a list of their students but you still need to inform us you are studying there. The list is normally available October/November. If you are studying at any other establishment you will need to provide your certificate as soon as it is available.

If your tenancy commences a little earlier than your course then the exemption or discount will be backdated to the start of your tenancy.

Please remember if you do not contact us you will receive a council tax bill for the full amount.

5. What if there are several students sharing?

It would be a good idea to nominate someone to collect all the certificates in your house as soon as possible and then you can be sure that any reduction will be actioned in good time.

6. How do we define a student?

Higher education - A student (over 18) undertaking a full time course of education at a prescribed educational establishment, ie a university.

Further education - A student (18-20) on a full time course for education, for example, studying for A level certificates or ONC/OND qualifications.

Overseas students - If you are an overseas student you can still qualify for an exemption. If you have a non-British partner the exemption will cover you both providing your passports are produced showing the endorsement “No recourse to public funds”.

Student nurses - Student nurses studying academic courses at universities are considered to be students.
Student nurses taking a course at a college of nursing and midwifery or a college of health, which will lead to their first qualification as a nurse, midwife or health visitor are also considered to be students. They are entitled to a discount or exemption in the same way as other students.

Foreign language assistants - If you are a foreign language assistant, to gain a discount or exemption you will need to provide a Certificate of Registration from the British Council which you should have received following your appointment at school or college. 

7. Do under 18’s have to pay Council Tax?

If you are under 18 you will not be taken into account when the council tax bill is calculated and you will not be liable to pay.

8. What happens if there are non-students living in the household?

If there are two or more non-students living in the household the full council tax charge is payable jointly by the non-students. If there is only one non- student living in the property the non-student will be liable to pay the bill and will qualify for a 25% discount. The students will not be held jointly and severally liable for the council tax charge once their student status is confirmed. If the property is rented then any non students are liable to pay if the property is let on a joint tenancy, otherwise the owner is liable to pay.

9. When do students have to pay the bill?

A student will be liable to pay council tax if he/she has the highest interest in the property. For example, a resident owner who is a full time student is liable for 75% of the charge where there is also one non-student lodger or for the full charge if there are two or more non-students lodgers.

A student who has a higher interest in the property than the other occupiers will also be liable to pay the charge.  For example, the student holds the tenancy in their name only but the property is also occupied by one non-student (75% charge) or two or more non-students (full charge).

If the property is a “House in Multiple Occupation” the owner will be liable to pay the bill if there are non-student residents.

10. What is a “House in Multiple Occupation” ?

Houses in multiple occupation are:

• Properties that were built or adapted for multiple occupation or,
• Properties occupied by more than one household, where residents pay rent separately for different parts of the property and share cooking and washing facilities.

The owner or leaseholder of the whole property will be the person who is liable to pay the council tax although they are still entitled to the same student discount or exemption depending on the number of non students.

11. Can I claim council tax reduction?

If you do not meet the criteria to be classed as a student for a council tax exemption and you are on income support or any other benefit you may still be entitled to council tax reduction to cover your share of the bill.  More information can found from the Housing and council tax reduction website or you can contact them on 023 8083 3009.

12. What if my circumstances change?

If you are currently exempt from council tax and there is a change in your circumstances or of anyone in your household, you must tell us.

Examples of a change of circumstances include

• Changing your address
• You or someone you live with leaves their course
• The course changes from full time to part time
• The people you are living with change

Landlord FAQs

1. When I rent out a property what information does the council tax office need to know?

You must provide the following information within 21 days of the change of circumstances:-
Date tenancy ends and forwarding address for each of the vacating tenant(s).
The full names and tenancy start date of the occupying tenant(s).
If the property is rented as a furnished or unfurnished let.
If the tenants are all students.
Your name and address and a telephone number in case we need to contact you.

NB. The council tax office must be advised of tenants moving in and out promptly. We will not register tenants for a retrospective period. For the Council to consider an appeal to register tenants for a past period we will need to see full supporting evidence such as tenancy agreements, proof of rent, utility bills and tenant contact details such as forwarding addresses, employment details, etc.  

Further details can be found on the website under change of address.

2. Who pays the council tax on a rented property?

If the whole of the property is let on a joint tenancy agreement to a group of tenants’ or let wholly to one person, the tenant(s) is liable for the council tax.
If the property is let out as individual rooms and the tenants are paying rent for their room only, plus shared facilities, these properties are classed as Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO’S) for council tax purposes and the owner not the tenant is liable for the council tax.

3. Who pays the council tax if the property is let to students?

If all the occupants are full-time students the property is exempt from council tax. In order to claim the exemption the students need to advise us that they are registered as full time students and we have to see proof of their student status. Solent and Southampton Universities provide us with a list of their students. Students at other establishments need to provide a copy of their student certificate to the council tax office. The certificate can be obtained from their university/college faculty office.
If one of the occupants is not a student  only a 25% council tax discount  is applicable.
If two or more occupants are not students there is no council tax discount.
Further details can be found on the website under Exemptions.

4. When my property is empty who pays the council tax?

If the property is empty and furnished* the owner is liable to pay the full council tax from the date the previous tenant’s tenancy ended.
If the property is empty and unfurnished*, from the date the property becomes empty and unfurnished owners may apply for a 100% discount for a maximum period of one month after which the full council tax becomes due even if the circumstances remain unchanged.

NB. We cannot backdate discounts or exemptions more than 30 days so please let us know the situation as soon as the property becomes empty.

If you are purchasing a new property to let which is going to remain empty until you let it to tenants you also need to tell the council tax office within 21 days of the completion of sale so that we can give you the appropriate discount or exemption.

*Unfurnished = no furniture apart from white goods i.e cooker, fridge/freezer, washing machine.
Furnished = beds, wardrobes, chair’s, tables, sofa including white goods.

5. What if I am refurbishing the property?

If the property is unfurnished and uninhabitable and requires structural work to make it habitable, from 1st April 2013 you may be able to claim a 50% discount for up to a year from council tax from the date the work started, whilst the property remains empty. The council tax office will need to see proof of the work undertaken and may make an appointment with you for an inspector to visit the property to see if it qualifies for the exemption. We cannot backdate this exemption so please let us know at the time.
Further details can be found on the website under Exemptions.

Tenant FAQs

1. Who is liable to pay the council tax on a rented property?

If the whole property is let on a joint tenancy agreement to a group of tenants or let wholly to one person the tenant(s) is liable for the council tax. If the property is let as individual rooms and each tenant pays rent for their room only, plus shared facilities, then the property is classed as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) for council tax purposes and the owner, not the tenant(s), is liable for the council tax. If you move into a rented property you must inform the council tax department.

Further details can be found on the website under 'Who pays the bill?'.

2. What is joint and several liability?

All persons with the same interest in the dwelling are equally liable for council tax for that dwelling. This means that all tenants are liable to pay the whole bill not just a share.

3. What if I move out before my tenancy ends or my tenancy starts before I move in?

You will be liable for council tax from the start date of your tenancy and up until your tenancy end date.

4. Who should notify the Council that tenants have moved in?

Both the Landlord and the tenant(s) have equal responsibility to provide the Council with full details of tenants moving in and out of properties.

5. Who pays the council tax if the property is let to students?

If all the occupants are full time students the property is exempt from council tax. In order to claim the exemption the students need to advise us that they are registered as full time students and we have to see proof of their student status. Solent and Southampton Universities provide us with a list of their students. Students at other establishments need to provide a copy of their student certificate to the council tax office. The certificate can be obtained from their university/college faculty office.
If one of the occupants is not a student only a 25% council tax discount is applicable. If two or more occupants are not students there is no council tax discount. 
Where a full exemption does not apply the non student(s) will be billed for the council tax if the property is let on a joint tenancy, otherwise the owner is liable to pay.

6. I am on a low income/Income Support/Job Seekers Allowance - can I get help towards paying my council tax?

If you are on a low income or in receipt of any benefits you may be entitled to council tax reduction to cover your share of the bill. For more information please contact Benefit Services on 023 8083 3009.

7. How do I pay?

You can pay your council tax in monthly instalments. When your bill is issued a direct debit form will be enclosed. Further details can be found on the website under how to make a payment.

8. Am I eligible for a discount?

If you live alone you are entitled to claim a 25% discount. This will not be applied automatically and has to be claimed at the time. If a discount is requested for a retrospective period it will be backdated by one month only.
A full list of discounts is available on the website

9. How do I find out what council tax band the property is in?

The valuation list contains a full list of property bands and can be found on the valuation office website www.VOA.gov.uk. If you are moving into a brand new property it may have yet to be banded by the valuation office. You will still be able to make payments towards your council tax. If you notify the council that you have moved in they will send you an account number.

Contact information