Council Tax liability

Last Updated: 20 November 2023

Who is liable to pay Council Tax

The person or persons who fall in the highest category listed below is the 'liable person' and is responsible for paying the bill.

  • residents who have a freehold interest in the whole or any part of the property
  • residents who have a leasehold interest (including an assured shorthold tenancy) in the whole or any part of the property (or the superior leasehold interest if there are tenants with different leasehold interest)
  • residents who are statutory or secure tenants of the whole or any part of the property
  • residents who have a contractual licence to occupy the property or any part of it
  • other residents
  • non-resident owners of the property

A resident is someone aged 18 or over who lives in the dwelling as their only or main home.

If the description fits more than one person, then they each have a joint and several liability.

Joint and several liability is a legal term and it means that each person is equally, jointly responsible for the whole charge, and we can pursue both parties for any outstanding amount, until it is paid in full. Any disputes between joint and several parties needs to be dealt with by the individuals, not the council.

Please note that for the purposes of item 6 above, an 'owner' in relation to any dwelling is someone who holds a material interest in the whole or any part of the dwelling. A material interest is further defined as a freehold interest, or a leasehold interest which was granted for a term of six months or more.

Joint and several liability also applies to husbands and wives resident in the same dwelling and to unmarried couples living as husband and wife and civil partnerships. Some people are excluded from joint liability such as students and the severely mentally impaired.

In certain circumstances it is the owner of a property who is liable, not the people who live there such as:

  • residential care homes, nursing homes and some hostels
  • residences that are occupied by more than one household (a house of multiple occupation) and the residents pay rent separately for different parts of the dwelling, or specially built or altered so that people of different households can live in them
  • residences of Ministers of Religion
  • residences of religious communities
  • residences of domestic servants
  • residences of asylum seeker

Sole or main residence

For Council Tax purposes, you are considered to live at your "sole or main residence". However, questions do arise when people have the use of more than one residence or where people spend long periods away from home because of work or extended holidays.


For married and unmarried couples, even if you each own or rent a home, you will be treated as having one main residence for which you will pay the full Council Tax.

We have to establish the facts and make a decision. This may involve asking questions about your relationships and lifestyle or asking for written evidence.

If there are no other adults living in the second property a second home charge will be payable, because the property is furnished but is not anyone's only or main residence.

Working away

You may have a main residence but also own or rent another closer to where you work that you use during the week.

Your main home is classed as the place where you intend to return and where you would live if not for the demands of your work. This is usually where your partner and children (if any) live.

Long holidays

If you go on a long holiday and intend to return we will treat you as having your main residence at the property you leave.

A common situation is where an adult son or daughter leaves their parents address to travel for a year or so before going on to university. In such cases, unless there is evidence of their intention not to return at the end of their holiday, their main residence will be considered to be with their parents.

A property would remain your main residence even if you remove the furniture while you are away.

Council Tax liability for students

If you are a full time student resident in a property, along with another adult, who is not a student and who holds an identical interest in the property to you, such as a joint owner, joint tenant or joint resident, you will no longer be liable for the Council Tax. If, however, you hold a greater interest in the property and the other resident is not a student, then you will still be the person liable for the charge.

Appeal Council Tax liability

If you do not think you are liable to pay, you can appeal liability for Council Tax.