In self-contained flats or houses, the occupier is ordinarily liable for Council Tax. Landlords or their agents should inform the Council Tax section of the local authority in writing whenever someone moves in or out of their property or if it is empty.
If the property is empty, the landlord will generally be liable for Council Tax, but local authorities can offer discounted periods where the property is unoccupied and unfurnished. These discounts (if any) vary between local authorities. For example, some offer one week at a 100% discount and six months at 40% before the total amount becomes payable. Others offer longer 100% discount periods such as one or three months, but on the other hand, some don’t provide any period of discount whatsoever.
Where a property is unoccupied but an agreement is still ongoing, for example, as a result of abandonment or during the period whilst an occupier moves to a new property after giving notice, whether the landlord or occupier remains liable depends on the status of the agreement whilst the property was unoccupied. Advice should be sought, but as a minimum, there must be an agreement in place that the landlord granted for at least six months and (where the agreement is beyond the fixed term) has continued as a contractual periodic agreement for the occupier to be liable in these circumstances.
Where a property is fully occupied by students undertaking full-time education courses, the property becomes exempt from Council Tax, but students have to apply for an exemption. Their education institution will be able, on request from the student/s, to provide them with a notice that they are a full-time student and liable for exemption. If their agreement extends over the summer vacation, the exemption usually covers that period.
Students should be asked to provide proof of study to the landlord, where the landlord is liable for Council Tax, and the landlord can then apply to the council for their exemption.
Council Tax HMO
If there is more than one agreement for the property (e.g. if it is divided into bedsits), the property will be known as an HMO (a House in Multiple Occupation), but this should not be confused with the HMO rules landlords are more commonly familiar with (for which see later). Council Tax has separate and entirely different definitions for what is an HMO for Council Tax purposes.
Where the property is regarded as an HMO (for Council Tax purposes), the rules are more complex and will vary depending upon the policy of the council in that area and the layout of the property. Traditionally in a bedsit type property, the landlord was responsible for payment of Council Tax. Valuation Tribunal rulings have stated that the liability for Council Tax depends upon the location and number of kitchens and not whether it is self-contained. A bedsit with its own kitchen but sharing a bathroom and WC may still be rated as an individual unit for Council Tax purposes, making the occupier liable. Whereas a bedsit with an ensuite bathroom but shares a kitchen, the liability would typically lie with the landlord. A bedsit type house with two shared kitchens may be rated for Council Tax purposes as two separate units, three kitchens – three units etc. Some councils still take the traditional view, but more areas are issuing Council Tax demands based on the availability of kitchens. It is essential to seek advice from the local Council Tax team.
A property can also be regarded as an HMO for Council Tax purposes even if only ‘part of the building’ is let. For example, if a conservatory or loft is excluded from the agreement. It is also possible for a property to be regarded as an HMO where the dwelling was originally constructed or subsequently adapted for occupation by persons who do not constitute a single household. Therefore, it is even possible that adaptations alone define the property as an HMO for Council Tax. Whether these situations would be described as an HMO will depend on the individual circumstances.
Where the property is regarded as an HMO (for Council Tax purposes), the landlord will always be liable to pay the Council Tax.
Single Person Discount
An occupier over 18 living alone in a property will qualify for a 25% discount from their Council Tax bill.
Long Term Empty Property
Local authorities may set a Council Tax rate for long-term empty properties of up to 150% of the standard liability. A ‘long-term empty property’ is a property which has been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for at least two years, and this is often called the ‘empty homes premium’.
The empty homes premium cannot apply to homes that are empty due to the occupant living in armed forces accommodation for job-related purposes (Class E); or to annexes being used as part of the main property (Class F).
This template is a first (and fairly basic) letter before appeal against council tax liability on the basis of no notice given by a tenant but it can be modified with whatever grounds you wish to insert.
This template is a second (and quite in-depth) letter before appeal against council tax liability after the local authority have already responded to a first letter and refused to change their decision.