Living costs are on the rise and it’s never been more important to look for areas where you can save money. This includes priority bills like Council Tax.
But how does someone staying with you impact your usual Council Tax payments? And how long can they stay without having to pay Council Tax?
This article will explain how long someone can stay without paying Council Tax, how you can get a discount on your Council Tax, and what happens when you don’t pay Council Tax.
What is Council Tax?
Council Tax is an annual fee you pay to your local authority in England, Scotland, and Wales (regional differences apply) for the funding of local services which may include:
- Rubbish collection
- Street lighting
- Road maintenance
- Social care
- Trading standards
Everyone over the age of 18 that lives in a property is liable to pay Council Tax. This includes all domestic properties (rented and owned) that house individuals, including caravans, mobile homes, and boats.
Council Tax is unique in that it is based on the value of the property as opposed to the income of the habitants that live in the property.
How is my Council Tax bill calculated?
The amount of Council Tax you pay depends on several factors:
- The value of your property (valuation band)
- Your personal circumstances
- How much your local council needs to fund services
England and Scotland have eight Council Tax bands from A (cheapest) to H (most expensive). Wales has a similar system but has a ninth Council Tax band.
Council Tax rates change from time to time. For example, since the 2023/24 rates came into force, residents living in band D properties face an average increase of £2,400 a year.
Rates are also based on the assumption that two people live in a property. If you live alone, are a student, or are on a low income, you may be entitled to a discount or exemption on your full Council Tax bill.
If you think your valuation band is incorrect, you can ask the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to review your property. However, you must only do this if you have proof you are in the wrong band as the review could find that your property should be in an ever higher band.
Can I get a discount or exemption on my Council Tax?
Depending on the information you provided to your local authority, you may already get a discount on your Council Tax. If you’re not sure if a discount has been applied, check your most recent Council Tax bill or contact your local council.
There are several circumstances where you can get a discount on your Council Tax, including:
If you live alone
If you’re the only adult living in your property, you are eligible for a 25% discount on your annual Council Tax bill. This is known as a single person discount.
Even if you lived with someone that moved out a few months ago, you’ll be eligible for a discount on your paid Council Tax from the date the person moved out.
If you’re a student
If you and everyone living in the property are in full-time education, you are exempt from paying Council Tax.
However, if someone living in the property is a student, a 25% discount will be applied.
If you’re on a low income
You may be eligible for a Council Tax reduction if you meet the following criteria:
- You have less than £16,000 in savings
- You are responsible for paying the Council Tax bill for the property
- You have a low income from benefits or work (including self-employment)
If you have an unoccupied property
If your property is empty, you may be eligible for a discount for a limited time. The size and length of the discount may be affected by the previous owner’s use of the property.
If you live with a disabled person
If you live with an adult or child that is permanently disabled, you are eligible for a Council Tax discount. Someone may arrange a visit to your home after you apply.
How long can someone stay without paying Council Tax?
If you are currently receiving a single person discount, inviting another adult to live with you – even temporarily – may impact you amount of Council Tax you pay.
In this case, you must contact your local authority and explain the situation, including how long the person plans to stay.
They should be able to advise you if your Council Tax bill is likely to change.
Failure to inform your local authority can result in a fine of up to £1,000.
However, if the person lives permanently at another address and is responsible for paying Council Tax for that property, it is unlikely to affect your single person discount. This means you can continue to make payments as normal.
What happens if I don’t pay Council Tax?
Council Tax is classed as a priority bill and there can be serious consequences for not paying it. This is known as Council Tax arrears.
If you miss a Council Tax payment, your local authority will send you a reminder notice after two weeks to encourage you to pay the amount due as soon as possible.
If no payment has been made within seven days of you receiving a reminder notice, your local authority will send a final notice.
This will ask you to pay your total outstanding balance due for the year within seven days.
If no payment has been made in seven days, your local authority will be free to apply to the court for permission to forcibly collect the missed payment from you. This is known as a liability order.
However, your local council will usually try to recover an unpaid Council Tax bill through other, less serious means before taking legal action. This may include reaching out to arrange a repayment plan or checking if you’re eligible for a reduction.
If you can’t afford to pay your Council Tax bills, never suffer in silence or wait until legal action has been taken. There is always a solution for Council Tax debt and taking action can prevent the situation from getting worse.
Understanding the intricacies of Council Tax, exploring available discounts, and fulfilling your payment obligations are essential for managing your finances effectively and avoiding potential difficulties. By staying informed and taking appropriate action, you can navigate the Council Tax system more efficiently and ensure your financial well-being.