Council Tax Advice

  • Council Tax is a tax on residential accommodation
  • Full-time students don’t pay Council Tax, but must prove exemption to their local council
  • Part-time students should contact their local council to discuss Council Tax exemption or reduction

Information on this page is for guidance only and is not a definitive interpretation of the law.

What is Council Tax?

Council Tax is a tax on residential accommodation, i.e. ‘dwellings’ – places where people live.

Local authorities use Council Tax to pay for services, such as waste collection and fire and police services. Council Tax rates are based on the value of the property and the number of people over 18 who live there.

If a house has been converted into self-contained flats then usually each flat is classed as a single dwelling and attracts its own, separate Council Tax bill.

If a property contains rooms occupied as individual tenancies, but with some shared facilities (such as bathrooms and kitchens), then the whole house is usually classed as a single dwelling in multiple occupation and attracts one single Council Tax bill.

Do full-time students pay Council Tax?

If all the adults in a property are full-time students as defined by the Council Tax regulations, it is likely that they will be disregarded for a Council Tax assessment, the property will be exempt and no Council Tax will be payable. All students who believe they are exempt must obtain a Council Tax exemption certificate and submit it to the satisfaction of the local council.

Where a property is occupied by a mixture of full-time students, part-time and non-students, the property is NOT automatically exempt.

No Council Tax is normally payable in:

  • University halls of residence
  • A shared house or flat where all residents are full-time students and each pays rent separately
  • If you live in a bedsit or rent a room from a landlord, the landlord is normally responsible for payment of Council Tax (check this in advance with your landlord).

Are part-time students exempt from Council Tax?

The assessment rules regarding exemption for students who are not enrolled as full-time students are complex. Students enrolled part-time are advised to contact their local council to discuss their personal circumstances if they think they may be exempt from Council Tax.

If you are not exempt from Council Tax, you may be entitled to a Council Tax Reduction or a discount, depending on your situation, and depending on the criteria used by your local authority. Please contact your local authority for further information.

What if I live with non-students?

If you share a house with people who are liable for Council Tax and you are exempt, you should not be liable for Council Tax but your housemates will be. Exempt students are not jointly and severally liable for Council Tax as they may be for other bills. This does not apply however if you have a ‘higher’ interest in the property, e.g. you are the owner. All students who believe they are exempt must obtain a Council Tax exemption certificate and submit it to the satisfaction of the local council.

What if I live with a spouse and/or dependants?

Non-student partners/spouses and/or dependants of students may be eligible for Council Tax benefit or discounts. Please check with your council for more information.

I am a PhD student ‘writing up’ my thesis

Students who are ‘writing up’ may be liable for Council Tax if they do not satisfactorily meet the Council Tax definition of a full-time student. Such students should discuss their personal circumstances with their local council.

What should I do if I have a query about Council Tax?

You should first contact your local council and discuss your personal circumstances with them.

The Student Money Advice Team can also offer advice.

Council Tax exemption certificates

Please see the Council Tax Letters page to find out how to request a Council Tax Exemption Certificate.

What to do if you are sent a Council Tax bill

It is imperative that if you are sent a Council Tax bill you do not ignore it even if you are exempt. Council Tax legislation provides the local authority with extensive powers to enforce payment and a court order maybe levied against you for non-payment.

You will need to contact the relevant authority (details on the bill) to ensure that the Council Tax department has applied the student exemptions for the correct dates and that all occupants in shared accommodation have provided student exemption certificates.

What happens when I finish my course?

Council Tax exemption ends when you complete your course, so it is important to check your course and term dates.

Former students who are liable to pay Council Tax may be able to claim Council Tax benefit dependent on individual circumstances. Please contact your local authority for further information.