Council tax

A Red Home Tax Sign Real Estate ConceptCouncil tax has to be paid on homes, either by the owner or the tenant. Some types of properties are exempt from council tax and some people do not have to pay council tax or are entitled to a discount.

How much council tax do I have to pay?

The amount of council tax payable will depend on the valuation band assigned to your property by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). The band is based on the value of your property as of 1 April 1991.

Each local authority will have a list of all the domestic properties in its area and the corresponding valuation band. This is the valuation list and is published online by the VOA. If you think you council tax band is incorrect, you should contact the VOA and ask for your band to be reviewed.

What types of property are exempt from council tax?

A property is exempt from council tax, either for a short period of time or indefinitely, where:

  • all the people who live in it are aged under 18 or with severe mental impairment
  • it is empty because the person who lived there has moved into a care home or to live with relatives who care for them or the person who lived there has gone to care for someone else
  • it has been repossessed by a mortgage lender
  • it houses only students or Foreign Language Assistants registered with the British Council
  • it is a holiday caravan or boat on another property where council tax is paid
  • it is a self-contained flat and the person who lives in it is a dependent relative of the owner of the main property
  • it is a property that has been condemned to be demolished

If the owner of the house has died, council tax will not be charged for up to six months after probate is granted.

If you own a property that counts as your second home or which you rent out, you may get up to 50 per cent discount from the council if it is furnished. If the property is unfurnished and empty, you will have to pay council tax but you may still get a discount. It will be up to the council to decide.

Who is exempt from council tax?

  • children under 18
  • full-time college and university students
  • people on apprentice schemes
  • young people under 25 who get funding from the Skills Funding Agency or Education Funding Agency
  • people with a severe mental disability
  • carers who look after someone who is not their partner or child and lives with them
  • diplomats
  • student nurses
  • foreign language assistants registered with the British Council

If you are an adult who lives alone but do not fall into the exempt category, you can apply for a 25 per cent council tax discount on your bill.

How is council tax paid?

The council tax bill for your property will usually be sent out just before or in April, It will be divided into ten payments. You can ask the council to increase the number of payment to twelve months.

Council tax arrears

If you are having difficulties with paying your council tax because you are on a low income, you may be eligible for a Council Tax Reduction.

If you have missed payments on your council tax, your council will send you a reminder to pay the outstanding amount within seven days. If you are sent three reminders for late payment within the same financial year, you will lose the right to pay by installments and the full year's council tax becomes payable.

If you fail to make payments within the specified time, the council can take legal action to recover the amount you owe as well as any legal fees.

If you do not pay, the court may send you to prison. Alternatively, the council can ask the court to issue a ‘liability order’ which means that:

  • the arrears can be deducted from your salary or any benefits and allowances you receive
  • bailiffs can seize your goods to the value of what you owe

You should contact your council as soon as possible if you think there will be any problems paying your council tax bill. 

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