Council pursuing student for council tax

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My son is a full time student. He took on a tenancy last year with his friend who works full time. Their landlord misinformed them and said if my son took the tenancy in his name only they would not be liable for council tax. He now knows this is not the case. The council is now pursuing him for the council tax as the tenancy was solely in his name. Is he liable? The council is insisting he is and have begun court proceedings, adding those costs to the bill. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
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  • CIS
    CIS Posts: 12,260 Forumite
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    Fi1964 said:
    My son is a full time student. He took on a tenancy last year with his friend who works full time. Their landlord misinformed them and said if my son took the tenancy in his name only they would not be liable for council tax. He now knows this is not the case. The council is now pursuing him for the council tax as the tenancy was solely in his name. Is he liable? The council is insisting he is and have begun court proceedings, adding those costs to the bill. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
    So your son was the only resident tenant and he was the tenant for the whole property ?
    If so, then the fact that he is a student is immaterial.
    Under s6 of the LGFA 1992 your son would have held the higher interest in the property and so remains liable for the council tax charge, even if he himself is a student and disregarded from the council tax charge calculation itself - who is liable to pay and who is taken in to account when the charge is calculated are two different determinations.
    Your son would appear to be liable for the council tax charge with a 25% discount due to their being 2 parties, one of who was a student.
    I no longer work in Council Tax Recovery but instead work as a specialist Council Tax paralegal assisting landlords and Council Tax payers with council tax disputes and valuation tribunals. My views are my own reading of the law and you should always check with the local authority in question.
  • es5595
    es5595 Posts: 380 Forumite
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    He needs to speak to his ‘friend’, explain the situation, and send him a copy of the bill. 

    Ask once nicely, then send a LBA, and then request the money via the Small Claims Court. 

    How were the council aware there was someone else living there?
  • Fi1964
    Fi1964 Posts: 27 Forumite
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    CIS said:
    Fi1964 said:
    My son is a full time student. He took on a tenancy last year with his friend who works full time. Their landlord misinformed them and said if my son took the tenancy in his name only they would not be liable for council tax. He now knows this is not the case. The council is now pursuing him for the council tax as the tenancy was solely in his name. Is he liable? The council is insisting he is and have begun court proceedings, adding those costs to the bill. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
    So your son was the only resident tenant and he was the tenant for the whole property ?
    If so, then the fact that he is a student is immaterial.
    Under s6 of the LGFA 1992 your son would have held the higher interest in the property and so remains liable for the council tax charge, even if he himself is a student and disregarded from the council tax charge calculation itself - who is liable to pay and who is taken in to account when the charge is calculated are two different determinations.
    Your son would appear to be liable for the council tax charge with a 25% discount due to their being 2 parties, one of who was a student.
    Hi CIS, 
    Thanks for your reply.
    I'm confused. If a property is occupied solely by full time students they are all exempt from paying council tax, so why would my son be liable? He is the full time student. 
    Thanks,
    Fiona

  • Fi1964
    Fi1964 Posts: 27 Forumite
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    es5595 said:
    He needs to speak to his ‘friend’, explain the situation, and send him a copy of the bill. 

    Ask once nicely, then send a LBA, and then request the money via the Small Claims Court. 

    How were the council aware there was someone else living there?
    Hi Es5695,
    Thank you for your reply. He is currently discussing who will pay what with his former flatmate. I really want to know if he is legally liable for the council tax being that he was a full time student at the time or whether his flatmate is liable for the full amount? Also he is the one the council are chasing for the money.
    We don't know how the council found out, but seeing as they were unaware that they had been misinformed at the time we are guessing it maybe from a voting form or something.
    Thanks again,
    Fiona
  • CIS
    CIS Posts: 12,260 Forumite
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    Fi1964 said:
    CIS said:
    Fi1964 said:
    My son is a full time student. He took on a tenancy last year with his friend who works full time. Their landlord misinformed them and said if my son took the tenancy in his name only they would not be liable for council tax. He now knows this is not the case. The council is now pursuing him for the council tax as the tenancy was solely in his name. Is he liable? The council is insisting he is and have begun court proceedings, adding those costs to the bill. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
    So your son was the only resident tenant and he was the tenant for the whole property ?
    If so, then the fact that he is a student is immaterial.
    Under s6 of the LGFA 1992 your son would have held the higher interest in the property and so remains liable for the council tax charge, even if he himself is a student and disregarded from the council tax charge calculation itself - who is liable to pay and who is taken in to account when the charge is calculated are two different determinations.
    Your son would appear to be liable for the council tax charge with a 25% discount due to their being 2 parties, one of who was a student.
    Hi CIS, 
    Thanks for your reply.
    I'm confused. If a property is occupied solely by full time students they are all exempt from paying council tax, so why would my son be liable? He is the full time student. 
    Thanks,
    Fiona

    Determining who is named as liable on the bill and calculating the council tax charge due are two separate and discrete steps.
    Your son is liable as he holds the highest legal interest in the property as the resident tenant - so any bills, even if a nil bill, will be in his name. Liability is just a term for determining who has their name on the bill, nothing else.
    Only once liability is determined can the actual council tax charge be determined. As there's a non-student then the exemption cannot apply as that is only for a property occupied entirely by students, which it isn't. There are two adults to consider, only one of whom is a student. This means that only a 25% discount applies.
    I no longer work in Council Tax Recovery but instead work as a specialist Council Tax paralegal assisting landlords and Council Tax payers with council tax disputes and valuation tribunals. My views are my own reading of the law and you should always check with the local authority in question.
  • Fi1964
    Fi1964 Posts: 27 Forumite
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    Hi CIS,
    So that means that my son has to pay it if his flatmate won't? Even though he would've been exempt himself?
    Thanks,
    Fiona
  • CIS
    CIS Posts: 12,260 Forumite
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    Fi1964 said:
    Hi CIS,
    So that means that my son has to pay it if his flatmate won't? Even though he would've been exempt himself?
    Thanks,
    Fiona
    On the basis of what you have provided us with, yes, he would be the liable person for the charge of 75%.
    I no longer work in Council Tax Recovery but instead work as a specialist Council Tax paralegal assisting landlords and Council Tax payers with council tax disputes and valuation tribunals. My views are my own reading of the law and you should always check with the local authority in question.
  • silvercar
    silvercar Posts: 47,094 Ambassador
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    some some inaccuracies here. According to citizens advice a student can never be liable for a council tax bill.

    link here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-a-home/student-housing/students-in-private-rented-accommodation/student-housing-council-tax/

    Relevant but:
    If someone you share with isn't a full-time student

    The property won’t be exempt from council tax and you’ll get a bill. However, whoever is liable to pay the council tax might qualify for a discount.

    For example, if you share with an employed person or a part-time student, they will probably be liable for 75% of the council tax bill. There is a 25% discount because there is only 1 eligible adult in the property. As the full-time student, you’re disregarded when counting the number of eligible adults in the property for discount purposes.

    If you share with 2 or more employed people who aren’t students, they’re likely to be liable for 100% of the council tax bill, unless 1 or both of them qualifies as a disregarded person for council tax discount purposes. In this situation, the local council can only pursue the non-students for payment of the council tax bill.”


    Last sentence is key, a council can only pursue non students for council tax.

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  • CIS
    CIS Posts: 12,260 Forumite
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    edited 16 February 2021 at 8:14PM
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    silvercar said:
    some some inaccuracies here. According to citizens advice a student can never be liable for a council tax bill.
    ...
    Last sentence is key, a council can only pursue non students for council tax.
    Not entirely correct, I'm afraid.
    CAB's site is written from the point of view of sharing meaning there's a partner or a joint tenancy, which is not the case here (and, in any case, it misses a lot of the more technical nuances of council tax). There is no joint initial liability in this case.
    Where you have, for example 3 student tenants, then they are each jointly liable as per ss6(2) and 6(3) of the Act - the difference is that the property then, separately, qualifies for an exemption under a different provision. This provision has no effect on the liability, the party who gets the bill, it just means that there's a nil bill as an exemption is applied.
    There is only one provision within s6 of the Act which looks at any personal status when determining liability (in this case the 2003 amendment to s6(4) in respect of students and SMI).
    If we look at S6(2) we see the following in the 'hierarchy of liability'.

    (2)     A person falls within this subsection in relation to any chargeable dwelling and any day if, on that day--

    (a)     he is a resident of the dwelling and has a freehold interest in the whole or any part of it;
    (b)     he is such a resident and has a leasehold interest in the whole or any part of the dwelling which is not inferior to another such interest held by another such resident;
    (c)     he is both such a resident and a statutory, secure or introductory tenant of the whole or any part of the dwelling;
    (d)     he is such a resident and has a contractual licence to occupy the whole or any part of the dwelling;
    (e)     he is such a resident; or
    [(ea)     in the case of a dwelling situated in the area of a billing authority in England, the person is a mortgagee in possession of the owner's interest in the dwelling; or] Ignore this as not yet in force.

    (f)     he is the owner of the dwelling.


    As we can see - the OP's son falls at (2)(c) as the sole tenant. The OP's friend rests at (2)(e) as a 'resident'. The party who rests first in the list working from (a) is the liable person. As you will notice s6 makes no reference to anything other than their legal status in respect of occupation.

    Under s6(3) where more than one person falls at the same point in s6(2) then they are jointly liable (which is not the case here as OP's son has the highest legal interest in the property).
    (3)     Where, in relation to any chargeable dwelling and any day, two or more persons fall within the first paragraph of subsection (2) above to apply, they shall each be jointly and severally liable to pay the council tax in respect of the dwelling and that day.

    So, where do students and SMI and SMI come in to it ? This is via the provision of s6(4) of the act which acts to override the joint liability under s6(3).
    (4)     Subsection (3) above shall not apply as respects any day on which one or more of the persons there mentioned fall to be disregarded for the purposes of discount by virtue of paragraph 2 (severely mentally impaired) or 4 (students etc) of Schedule 1 to this Act and one or more of them do not; and liability to pay the council tax in respect of the dwelling and that day shall be determined as follows--
    (a)     if only one of those persons does not fall to be so disregarded, he shall be solely liable;
    (b)     if two or more of those persons do not fall to be so disregarded, they shall each be jointly and severally liable.


    As you can see under s6(4) if you have a mixture of people who are jointly liable and some are not students/SMI then the liability reverts to those who are not students/SMI but this provision only works where there are a mixture of people who are jointly liable.



    I no longer work in Council Tax Recovery but instead work as a specialist Council Tax paralegal assisting landlords and Council Tax payers with council tax disputes and valuation tribunals. My views are my own reading of the law and you should always check with the local authority in question.
  • Fi1964
    Fi1964 Posts: 27 Forumite
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    Thank you all for your help. It seems unfortunately then, that my son will have to pay this bill. Thanks again.
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