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council tax - how long can someone 'lodge' before they are legally bound to pay it?

Posted 6th Jul 2011
How long can someone stay at another person's house before they have to start paying council tax? They are there till they can afford to rent a place of there own, and the person they are staying with pays his council tax but only as a single person..........
Community Updates
A quick guide on how Council Tax works and how you could reduce your bill

What is it?
Council tax is collected by your local authority to pay for services in your community, from rubbish collection through to funding the police. It was first introduced in 1993. The bandings are calculated based on the value of the property on the 1st April 1991. This date applies to properties in England and Scotland, but in Wales it is 1st April 2003. In England and Scotland, properties are split into eight council tax bands which range from from A to H (in Wales there’s also a ninth ‘I’ band). However, Northern Ireland uses a different domestic rates system, based on rental values.

If your property was built before 1st April 1991 then the VOA for England and Wales will have assessed it based on the property’s size, layout, character and its location. If the property didn’t exist on the date the banding valuations are set, it will be compared to the same types of properties in the area that already have a council tax band.

Council tax applies to everyone who lives in a property in the UK and is a compulsory tax for anyone over the age of 18 (we’ll look at exemptions to this further down).

What does it cost?
Your council tax is set by your local tax office at your council (find out yours here) and therefore the payments vary nationwide. As stated above, it operates on a system of different value bands. An easy way to find out what band your property (or one you are looking to rent or buy) is in, is to use the Council Tax Checker here.

However, there are exemptions to council tax payments if your property falls into one of the following brackets. The property will be exempt if it is:

  • occupied entirely by full-time students.
  • occupied only by people aged under 18.
  • an armed forces accommodation.
  • unoccupied and undergoing major repair work to render the property habitable, or structural alteration (the length of this exemption changes depending on which council you are dealing with).
  • unoccupied and part of the estate of someone who has died (for up to 6 months after probate has been granted).
  • unoccupied and repossessed (for example, taken into possession by a mortgage lender).
N.B In Scotland, you'll may already need to pay full council tax even if your home is unoccupied for 12 months.

How do I pay my council tax?
You will be sent a bill to your property outlining the full annual cost. You usually make a payment of council tax on a monthly basis as laid out on your bill but you have the option to pay the year in full if you wish. Many local authorities offer different methods of payments including Direct Debit, online payment facilities and telephone payment systems. A contact number will be provided on your council tax bill if you have any queries. If you have recently moved to a new area you will need to inform both local authorities of your change of address for council tax purposes.

We’ll take a look at how your circumstances can save money on your council tax:

I’m the only adult living in my house, can I get a council tax discount?
A full council tax bill is based on two adults living in the property. If you are the only person in your household age 18 or over then you can apply for a reduction through your local authority. Your council will ask you to provide supporting evidence. Once evaluated they will then inform you whether they’ve granted you a reduction within two months.

I’m on a low income, can I get any help towards my council tax?
If you or anyone you live with is on a low income (including Tax Credits, Universal Credit or JSA) then you may be eligible for a council tax reduction of up to 100%. This is known as Council Tax Support and is paid via a rebate on your council tax bill. Factors that can affect how much you are eligible for include; income, any savings you have and whether you live with other adults, your residency status and more. Each local authority sets different levels of Council Tax Support so contact your local authority to find out whether you're eligible for a reduction. You can apply online for a council tax reduction here.

I live with a disabled person, can I get any help towards council tax?
Your council tax bill could be reduced if your property has features that are essential for the wellbeing of a person with a disability who lives there. An example of this is having specially adapted kitchens or bathrooms within the property. The disabled person can be either an adult or a child and eligible households will get a one-band reduction on their council tax bill. If you think you could be eligible for this then contact your local council tax office.

What is a ‘second adult rebate’?
You may be able to claim a second adult rebate if you share your house with another adult on a low income who is NOT your partner or spouse. It is worth approaching your local authority if you think this may apply to you.

How long can someone stay without paying council tax?
If a lodger has moved into your house and you are paying council tax as a single occupant then you will need to inform the local council. Normally, if the person has another main residence where they pay council tax then yours won’t be affected but if they don't, and they are over 18, then your single occupancy rate will no longer apply. Therefore you need to be careful regarding the council tax single person discount temporary guest consequences, if someone stays with you for too long and they are not paying council tax for another property then this will affect your rate. If you just have someone staying for a few nights you don’t need to worry about this since it’s unlikely you have to pay a council tax staying with friends for a short time. In any case, you should speak to your local council about council tax temporary guest rates and their potential effect on your council tax. If your council tax is affected then you could ask to split the bill with your lodger or include it in their rent. Also, remember that if you are taking payment from your lodger then this money will also need to be added to your annual tax return.

What about second homes and holiday homes?
It may be possible to get a discount on your second or holiday home. This varies from council to council and the reasons why you have a second home. For example, if it is due to work, like owning a pub or working for a church, you may be eligible for a 50% reduction on your council tax. You will need to pay the full amount on your main residence and apply to the local authority in the area your second home is located to see if you could get a discount based on your circumstances.

I don’t think my council tax band is fair, can I ask for it to be changed?
It is possible to ask for a review of your council tax band if you think your property has been put in a higher band than it should be (for example, you are paying more than your neighbours but it is the exact same size and age property). You can ask for a review of your council tax band through the Valuation Office Agency. This could save you money but be aware that if they review your property they could also put it into an even higher council tax band.

I’ve applied for a discount based on my circumstances but it has been rejected, what should I do now?
The first step is to write to your local council detailing why you think your bill isn’t correct. If this appeal is rejected then you can use this online form for the Valuation Tribunal to request a review into your case.