Who should pay for Council Tax

Usually the person living in the property is responsible for paying Council Tax, if it is their sole or main residence and they are over 18 years of age.

Who needs to pay

The liable person is the person whose name appears on the Council Tax bill. In most cases this is the person occupying the property. There can be one liable person or multiple, depending on the circumstances.

The following list (referred to as the ‘hierarchy of liability’) is used to work out who is liable. The person appearing nearest the top of this list is the liable person. If more than one person appears at the same level (for example, joint owners or tenants), they will all be ‘jointly and severally liable’.

The hierarchy of liability is as follows:

  1. A freehold owner or occupier living in the property
  2. A leasehold owner or occupier living in the property
  3. A tenant living in the property
  4. A person living in the property who is a licensee (not a tenant, but has permission to stay there)
  5. Any person living in the property (this includes people living in the property with or without permission of the owner)
  6. An owner of the property, where the property is unoccupied

If you do not pay your Council Tax bill, you could be taken to court. Find out what happens if you don’t pay.

People who are ‘disregarded’ for Council Tax purposes

When working out how many people live in a property, some people aren’t counted - they’re called ‘disregarded people’. If everyone who lives in the property is disregarded there’s still a Council Tax bill, but it will have a 50% discount

Check if you can apply for a discount

Joint and several liability

Each person at the property is jointly responsible for paying Council Tax. 

Joint and several liability also applies to:

  • anyone who has the same interest in the dwelling
  • husbands and wives resident in the same dwelling
  • unmarried couples living as husband and wife and civil partnerships
  • people in civil partnerships

Some people are excluded from joint liability such as students and the severely mentally impaired.

When the responsibility to pay isn’t the people who live at a property

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 occupied by domestic staff
  • residences of asylum seekers

Sole or main residence

For Council Tax purposes, you are considered to live at your "sole or main residence".


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. 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.

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.

Find out more about the second home charge

Working away or if you go on a long holiday

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.

If you think you are not liable to pay Council Tax

You can appeal in writing to us.

How to make an appeal

Contact the Council Tax team