Who has to pay Council Tax?

Usually one person, called the liable person, is liable to pay council tax. Nobody under the age of 18 can be a liable person.

Couples living together will both be jointly liable, even if there is one name on the bill. This applies whether the couple is married, cohabiting or in a civil partnership.

Usually, the person living in the property will be the liable person, but sometimes it will be owner of the property who will be liable to pay.

The owner will be liable if:

  • The property is in multiple occupation, for example, a house shared by a number of different households who all pay rent separately
  • The people who live in the property are all under the age of 18; or
  • The property is accommodation for asylum seekers; or
  • The people who are staying in the property are there temporarily and have their main homes somewhere else; or
  • The property is a care home, hospital, hostel or women's refuge

If only one person lives in a property they will be the liable person.

If more than one person lives there, a system called the hierarchy of liability is used to work out who is the liable person. The person at the top, or nearest to the top, of the hierarchy is the liable person. Two people at the same point of the hierarchy will both be liable.

The hierarchy of liability is:

  1. A resident owner / occupier who owns either the leasehold or freehold of all or part of the property
  2. A resident tenant
  3. A resident who lives in the property and who is a licensee. This means that they are not a tenant, but have permission to stay there
  4. Any resident living in the property, for example, a squatter
  5. An owner of the property where no one is resident

Council Tax discounts

You must pay the full council tax if there are two or more adults living in the property. If only one adult lives in the property the tax will be reduced by 25%.

However, people who are in one of the categories below do not count towards the number of adults living in the property, and are disregarded:

  • Full time students, student nurses, apprentices and Youth Training trainees
  • Overseas students or the spouse of an overseas student (who is not entitled to claim benefits)
  • Patients permanently resident in hospital
  • People who are being looked after in residential care homes, nursing homes (such as hospices), mental nursing homes
  • Hostels providing a high level of care
  • People who are severely mentally impaired
  • People kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983
  • People staying in certain hostels or night shelters
  • Monks and nuns
  • 18 and 19 year olds who are at, or have just left school, where Child Benefit is payable
  • Care workers working on low pay usually for charities
  • People caring for someone with a disability (who is not a spouse,partner or their child under 18)
  • Convicted and remand prisoners, except people in prison for non-payment of fines or the Council Tax
  • Diplomats

If everyone who lives in the property is disregarded, there will still be a council tax bill, but there will be a 50 per cent discount.

Council Tax Reduction for people with a disability

You may pay less Council Tax if a disabled person normally lives in the property and the property contains:

  • A room which is mainly used by the disabled person (excluding the kitchen, bathroom or any toilet)
  • A second bathroom or kitchen
  • A wheelchair is used indoors

These must be very important for the well-being of the disabled person.

Apply for Council Tax discount or exemption