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Council tax - who has to pay

Details of your liability for Council Tax including Joint and Several liability


Council Tax is a part-property, part-person tax.  The full amount assumes that there are two or more adults (aged 18 or more) resident in the property.  If only 1 adult resides there, a 25% discount applies.  If the property is furnished but no-one resides there, the full council tax charge is payable (unless one of the council tax exemptions applies).

Who has to pay the bill depends on who is resident in the dwelling. The person who is legally liable is called the Council Taxpayer. There can be more than one person liable.

The Council Taxpayer will generally be the person aged 18 or over residing in the dwelling and who ranks highest in this list:

  • Freehold Owner
  • Leasehold Owner
  • Tenant (i.e. Rent Payer)
  • Licensee
  • Resident
  • Non Resident Owner/Leaseholder

If there is more than one person of the same ranking, each one is jointly liable (called "joint and several liability").  If no-one is resident, the non-resident owner/leaseholder is liable for the bill.

Joint and Several Liability

Where adult members of the same household (ie: freeholders, leaseholders, tenants etc.) have an equal interest in their dwelling, they are jointly and severally (ie: individually) liable to pay the whole Council Tax bill for the property.

Husband and wife or couples living as such are also jointly and severally liable for the whole Council Tax bill.

In all circumstances where there are two or more people liable for the same Council Tax bill, it is in the interests of these residents to come to an amicable agreement about how to pay.

Owner Liability

The owner rather than the resident is always liable in the following circumstances:

  • Residential care homes and nursing homes
  • Houses in multiple occupation (HMO's)
  • Dwellings occupied by a religious community
  • Dwellings inhabited by live-in staff employed in domestic services
  • Residences of Ministers of religion
Updated: 13 Nov 2015
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