What is council tax and who should pay it?

Landlord responsibilities for council tax

If there is no one living in the property as their main or only home, then the owner of the property is responsible to pay the council tax.  You can find out more about council tax on empty properties on the council tax discounts and exemptions page.

Tenancy changes

We know that landlords are busy, but the council should be kept informed of all tenancy changes within 21 days. This enables us to provide an efficient service, send correct bills and award discounts and exemptions promptly.

If you are a landlord or agent (such as a Letting Agent, Estate Agent, Housing Association) and you have a tenant moving in or out of a rental property.

Inform us of a change of tenant

Please be aware we will not usually register tenants for a retrospective period. For us to consider a request to register tenants for a past period, we must be satisfied that the property was occupied by tenant(s) for the period in dispute.

We therefore require the following information to verify the residency of the tenant(s):

  • Tenancy Agreements (signed by both the tenant and landlord and dated)
  • Proof of rent payment for the entire period of their tenancy, (hand written list of payments alone is not acceptable).
  • You must show how the rent was paid by providing bank statements and/or your accounts showing income earned from the above property.
  • Tenant(s) Identification
  • Contact telephone number(s) and email addresses
  • References obtained prior to acceptance of tenant(s) to reside in your property
  • Utility bills in the name of the tenant(s) which would have been sent to the property
  • Any official documents addressed to the tenant at the above address.
  • The exact date tenant(s) vacated.
  • Their forwarding addresses, which the council can trace and link to the tenant(s).
  • Copies of the court order or eviction notice (if applicable). 

If the council is not satisfied that the property was occupied for the period in dispute, the liability will be transferred / remain in the landlord’s name. 

House of Multiple Occupation (HMO)

If you are a landlord of a House of Multiple Occupation - where your tenants have their own room and shared facilities (this includes where tenants have access to only part of the property) - the landlord will be responsible for the council tax liability regardless of whether you have tenants in or not.

A HMO is defined in law for council tax purposes as a property that:

  1. was originally constructed or subsequently adapted for occupation by persons who do not constitute a single household (some of these properties will hold a HMO licence from Newham Council, some may not), or
  2. is inhabited by a person who, or by two or more persons each of whom, either is a tenant of, or has a licence to occupy, part only of the dwelling; or has a licence to occupy but is not liable (whether alone or jointly with other persons) to pay rent or a licence fee in respect of the dwelling as a whole.

Please note that the criteria for council tax HMOs is different to that of the housing criteria of a HMO.

Tenants that are all students (HMO properties) 

If you have students in your House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) you (as the liable person) can still be granted the full student exemption as long as their student proof has been provided to us.

Landlords or letting agents should gather the student proof at the time of a tenancy sign up. You can provide the information to us by using this dedicated landlord change of tenancy form. We only need the pages of the tenancy that show the full names of the occupiers, the start and end date of the tenancy and the signature page. 

If we do not receive the evidence from the landlord or letting agent we will attempt to contact the students directly to request proof. If however we do not receive the relevant proof then a full charge will be payable by the owner or landlord until proof if received.

Where one resident is a non student, regardless of the number of students who also live there, the owner or landlord will be liable for payment of 75% of the whole charge. If there are 2 or more non students, a full charge will be payable by the owner or landlord. 

Student proof must show the start and end dates of the course, the name of the establishment studying at and that the course is fulltime (over 21 hours per week and lasts over 24 weeks).

Tenants that are all students (non HMO properties) 

If you have tenants that are all full time students in a property that is not classed as a HMO they will be eligible for their own student exemption. In order to get the exemption we need to see proof of their student status. Please advise your tenants to complete the exemption form and upload their proof:

Students exemption for council tax

Please note that if you have any tenants that are not students within the household they will still be liable to pay some council tax. 

Acceptable student proof

The student proof must be a student certificate that show the following information:

  • dated from the current academic year
  • that the student is in fulltime education (a minimum of 21 hours study per week over 24 weeks)
  • the start and end dates of the course
  • the establishment they are studying at

Liability between tenanted lets (non HMO properties)

As a landlord/estate agent you are responsible for the council tax liability in between tenanted lets. If you have already informed us of a change in tenant you are required to keep paying your council tax until you receive an amended bill. You will be refunded any monies overpaid.

Empty and unfurnished properties

If you own or rent a property that becomes empty and unfurnished, you can apply for a 100% council tax discount for one month from the date it first became empty and unfurnished.

If the property remains empty and unfurnished after one month, the full council tax becomes due, you will have to pay the full charge.

You are also liable for the council tax if you own:

  • Residential care homes
  • Nursing homes
  • Property lived in by religious communities
  • Homes of ministers of religion
  • Homes provided for asylum seekers under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.

If you have a tenant or joint tenants who have a valid  tenancy agreement for the whole property they are responsible for paying the council tax.

Tell us about a change of tenant