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Council tax explained: What it is and who has to pay

Posted 19/01/2024 by Alex Moore
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Council tax is an essential tax you should be paying. Not paying your council tax will result in prosecution from your local council to recount the money you owe.

Don’t let this simple bill turn into a nightmare. Today, we’re filling you in on what council tax is, what the money you pay goes towards, how much you may have to pay and who is responsible for paying it.

Council tax explained

Council tax is a fee you’ll have to pay each year to your local council. Your council tax payment will help finance local services such as waste collection and disposable, fire departments, educational services, emergency service and more.

Without council tax, your local council would have less funds to keep these public services running in your area.

In Northern Ireland, council tax is simply known as ‘rates’. They are essentially the same, with the money you pay being used to maintain and improve local services.

The cost of council tax

Your property will fall into a council tax band, determined by your property’s value. Council tax bands range from A to H, with A being the smallest amount due and H being the largest amount due. The more valuable your property, the more council tax you’ll have to pay.

Different councils will determine how much you need to pay depending what band you are in. If you live in England or Wales, find out what council tax band your property is here and how much your local council charges for your council tax band here.

If you’re in Northern Ireland you can use the official rates calculator to figure out how much you’ll have to pay.

Who has to pay council tax?

Whoever is occupying the property has to pay council tax. That means homeowners and tenants above the age of 18 are both liable for payment of council tax.

There are some exemptions where the council will consider an individual ‘disregarded’ and as such are not liable to pay for council tax. A ‘disregarded’ individual would be:

  • A full-time student enrolled in college or university
  • An individual on certain apprenticeship schemes
  • A student nurse
  • And others.

Do landlords have to pay council tax?

As it is the occupier of a property that is liable to pay council tax, landlords typically don’t need to pay council tax on their let properties.

However, there are some situations where a landlord would be liable to pay council tax. These situations include but are not limited to:

  • When the tenant or tenants are all under the age of 18
  • When the property being let is a hospital, a care home or a refuge
  • When the tenants are asylum seekers
  • When the tenants are staying in another property temporarily while emergency work is being carried out on the main rental property
  • When the property is an HMO (House of Multiple Occupancy), and all tenants are paying rent individually

It is standard practice for HMO landlords to factor in the cost of council tax into the price of rent.

Reeds Rains always obtains proof of age and identity when conducting our tenant referencing checks and we do our best to make sure the tenant can afford bills associated with the let before we agree on a tenancy.


Council tax is an avoidable stress, so you should get ahead and pay your council tax on time. If you don’t pay your council tax, you will receive contact from the council after about two weeks to remind you to pay.

Not paying within 7 days of the notice, or if it’s the third time you’ve missed payment, you will receive one last ‘final notice’ before further action is taken.

If you’re thinking about what the next step in your property journey will be, get in touch with your local Reeds Rains branch and find out how your local advisers can help.

Find your local branch here

Alex Moore

Reeds Rains E-marketing Executive

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