Council Tax liability

Who is liable to pay Council Tax?

To find out who is responsible for the payment of Council Tax you have to consider the hierarchy of liability, which is based upon legal interest in the property.

The first description that applies to a person in your home on the hierarchy of liability list, will be the person liable for the Council Tax.

Hierarchy of liability

  • A resident freeholder (for owner-occupied property the owner is liable)
  • A resident leaseholder (this includes assured tenants under the Housing Act 1988)
  • A resident statutory or secure tenant
  • A resident licensee
  • A resident
  • The owner (this applies where the dwelling has no residents)

A resident is a person of 18 years or over and who lives in the dwelling as their only or main home.

Joint and several liability

Where two or more residents have the same legal interest in the property they are jointly and severally liable. They can all have their name on the Council Tax bill.  

This applies to the following:

  • Persons with the same interest in the property, according to the hierarchy of liability
  • Residents who are married to each other or are civil partners (under the Civil Partnership Act 2004)
  • Residents or owners liable for pitches occupied by caravans and moorings occupied by boats
  • Joint owners liable, rather than residents

If more than one person is jointly liable for Council Tax, the council can undertake recovery action against any or all of the persons named on the demand for all of the balance outstanding.

Where a property is occupied by the owner and also a friend or a lodger, only the resident owner can be named on the bill as liable because they have the higher legal interest in the property.

Owner liability

In some cases it is the non-resident owner not the residents, who is liable to pay the Council Tax.

This includes:

  • Houses in multiple occupation where the dwelling is occupied by more than one household and where residents pay rent for part only of the property
  • Residential care homes, nursing homes, mental nursing homes or certain types of hostel providing a high level of care
  • Religious communities such as monasteries or convents
  • A dwelling which is not the owner's main home, but which is the main home of someone who the owner employs in domestic service
  • Vicarages and other dwellings where a minister of religion lives and works (where the owner-occupier is a Church of England minister of religion, the Church is responsible for the bill)
  • Dwellings occupied only by asylum seekers