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Who should pay Council Tax

Find out who is responsible for paying the council tax charge for a property.

Only people aged 18 or over have to pay Council Tax. Often there is more than one person aged 18 or over in a home. The person highest in this list is responsible for paying Council Tax:

  • Resident freeholder. For example owner occupier.
  • Resident leaseholder. For example owner occupier who is paying ground rent.
  • Resident statutory or secure tenant. For example housing association or private tenant.
  • Resident licensee. For example the landlord of a public house who lives on the premises.
  • Other resident. For example a resident with no agreement.
  • Non-resident owner when the property is vacant.

Can more than one person be responsible for paying the council tax bill

We can charge more than one person for Council Tax if they have an equal interest in a property. This could be:

  • joint tenants
  • couples, both married and unmarried or in a civil partnership

This is Joint and Several liability. If there is more than one liable person we send a bill in joint names. This does not mean the charge is split equally between each person. It means there is equal responsibility for the full charge.

Some residents are 'not counted' for Council Tax. This includes students and anyone with a severe mental impairment. This is a disregard discount. It can affect who is liable and whether a discount may apply.

Find out more about bill reductions, exemptions and discounts

When residents are not responsible for paying council tax

There are occasions where the owner is liable but not the residents. These are as follows:

  • Houses in multiple occupation. These are dwellings with multiple occupants. They have separate rental agreements and shared facilities.
  • Residential care homes, nursing homes and bail or probation hostels.
  • Dwellings occupied by resident staff.
  • Dwellings occupied by ministers of religion, for example vicarages.
  • Dwellings occupied by religious communities, for example convents.
  • Dwellings occupied by asylum seekers.

Some properties may be exempt from paying Council Tax even if there is someone living there.

Find out more about bill reductions, exemptions and discounts

Council Tax and 'Freeman on the Land' or Similar Groups 

Council Tax is a statutory tax on residents and some owners of homes in Torbay. The money collected helps to pay for local essential services. This benefits Torbay as a whole. It includes things such as provision of adult social care and funding for schools.

There are 'Freeman on the Land' movements and similar groups. They commonly believe that they are bound only by statute laws they consent to. They often believe they don't have to pay Council Tax. This is a common misconception, as there is no requirement for a contract or consent. If you are liable to pay council tax you must pay. It is not optional. 

Council Tax Liability 

Anyone thinking they must consent or enter into a contract to have to pay council tax is incorrect. There is no legal basis upon which to make such an argument. 

Misleading Articles Online 

There are many misleading websites, articles and templates about the legality of Council Tax. If you are thinking of using this as a defence against non-payment of Council Tax you should seek professional legal advice. 

Non-payment of Council Tax 

If you choose not to pay your Council Tax, we will take steps to recover this money from you. The Magistrates' Court will grant a liability order. Further refusal to pay could result in your committal to prison.

The courts have previously considered the 'freeman' argument. They have not accepted this as a reason to ignore or opt out of paying Council Tax. An individual tried to use this argument in the case of Manchester Magistrates' Court vs McKenzie 2015. They went to prison for 40 days.

We have a responsibility to all taxpayers in the bay to take action against those that refuse to pay. We want to ensure we continue to provide essential services to our local communities.

Help if you are struggling to pay or worried about debt