Am I responsible for paying the Council Tax?

Brighton & Hove City Council determines who is responsible for paying the Council Tax by looking at the ‘Hierarchy of Legal Interest’ at the property concerned. This ‘hierarchy’ is defined in government regulations and is based on the ‘status’ of the person(s) living at the property.

The ‘highest’ person in the list below is the person who will be responsible for paying the Council Tax. For example, tenants living in a property with a secure tenancy are liable to pay the Council Tax as tenants. The owner is not living at the property and therefore is lower down in the hierarchy. If two or more people share the highest position in the list, then they will be jointly responsible.

  1. Resident Freeholder - For example, house owners, who have the legal right over the land on which a property is built as well as the property.
  2. Resident Leaseholder - For example, flat owners, who have the legal right to the property that they occupy, for the period of the lease they have from the owner of the property.
  3. Tenant - For example, a private tenant (where the owner is not living there) or council house tenant.
  4. Person with contractual licence to occupy - For example, a lodger.
  5. Resident - For example, a squatter.
  6. Owner.

There are some circumstances where the owner is always responsible for paying the Council Tax even though the owner is at the bottom of the hierarchy, in particular;

  • Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs)
  • Care Homes including mental nursing homes and hostels.
  • Properties occupied by religious communities.
  • Properties occupied by ministers of religion.

Joint and Several Liability

Joint and Several Liability is where two or more people are equally responsible for paying the Council Tax at a property. This equal responsibility is determined by:

  • whether all the people are on the same level of ‘hierarchy’ - For example, they each have the same legal right to the property, as in the case of joint owners or joint tenants.
  • The relationship of residents in the property – where they are married or live together as husband and wife.

In both these cases, each person has a legal obligation to pay any Council Tax due.

If you are a joint owner or joint tenant and you currently receive Income Support you are equally liable for the tax. Although you receive Income Support and are probably entitled to Council Tax Reduction there will be an amount to pay at the property. You will have equal responsibility for paying this amount, even though you may consider the benefit you have already received has cleared your portion of the liability.

Sole or main residence

When establishing whether a property is someone’s sole or main residence we consider the following factors:

  • The possession of all relevant dwellings, for example, is the property let, is it empty.
  • The number of addresses at which the individual is resident at various times, and the amount of time spent at each one over a specific period.
  • Where individuals keep most of their possessions.
  • The ownership of furniture.
  • The address at which the individual is registered for electoral/medical purposes.
  • The address to which gas, electricity, water bills, notices of tax coding etc are sent.
  • The sole or main residence of the individual’s immediate family (for example: wife, husband, dependent children).
  • Where each member of the household works.
  • Where the children (if any) go to school.
  • Whether they have membership of local facilities.
  • If the absence from one property is temporary, and
  • There is clear intention to return to one particular property.
  • Where individuals consider their home to be.

What if I disagree with the council’s decision on a ‘sole’ or ‘main’ residence?

You can contact us with your reasons. Documentary evidence supporting your reasons helps us consider your case.

What if I am still unhappy with the council’s decision?

You have the right of appeal to the Local Valuation Tribunal. Even if you do intend to appeal, you must still pay your Council Tax bill. If you do not, we would take the normal steps to recover payment. If you were successful in your appeal, any money you had overpaid would be refunded.