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Council Tax - Who has to pay


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 
  • Licensee
  • Resident

If no-one is resident, the non-resident owner/leaseholder is liable for the bill.


Adult members of the same household who have an equal interest in their dwelling, e.g. joint owners/joint tenants are jointly and severally liable to pay the whole Council Tax bill for the property.

In addition, persons who are married or in a civil partnership or couples living as such, are also jointly 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.


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: 12 Feb 2018
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