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Council Tax exemptions

Exemptions applying indefinitely to occupied properties

Halls of residence for students are exempt from Council Tax as long as the accommodation is owned or managed by an educational establishment (such as a college or university), or where an educational establishment nominates the majority of the student residents.

The accommodation must be provided predominantly for students, which does not prevent part of the accommodation being used permanently, or temporarily, for staff or other people.

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations.

Properties that are only occupied by full time students are exempt from payment of Council Tax. You must send to us Certificates of Full Time Education for all residents confirming their student status before this exemption can be applied to your Council Tax account.

If you are a student and you share your address with just one other person who is not a full-time student, then we can reduce the Council Tax bill by 25%.

If you are a student and you share your address with two or more residents who are not full-time students then there is no reduction. However, the full time student will not be named on the bill.

A foreign spouse or dependent of a student may live in the property without affecting the student exemption, as long as the terms of their visa prevent them from taking paid employment or claiming benefits.

Who is classed as a student?

There are three main categories of students for Council Tax purposes:

  1. You are a student if you are undertaking a full-time course at a college or university in the UK
  2. Under 20 years old in part time or full time education
    or
  3. Foreign language assistant - registered with the Central Bureau for Educational Visits and working at a school or other educational establishment.

A full-time course is one that:

  • lasts for at least one academic year or, if the establishment does not have academic years, for at least one calendar year
  • you normally go to for at least 24 weeks in each academic calendar year
    and
  • consists of an average of at least 21 hours a week of study, tuition, work experience or a combination of these.

Students not treated as such for Council Tax

If you are studying part time you are not considered as a full time student for Council Tax purposes.

How do I prove I am a student?

You will need to provide Revenues and Benefits with a Certificate of Full Time Education from your school, college or university to prove you are a full-time student. Your college is obliged to provide this.

You must ensure every student in the property submits a form before the exemption can be awarded

It is the student's responsibility to provide evidence of student status.

Landlords

If you are a landlord and are liable for the Council Tax and you wish to claim an exemption or discount, you should tell us the names and moving in dates of all students in the property.

You should also ask the students to provide you with a certificate of full time education which will be issued by their college or university.

You will only qualify for an exemption if all your tenants are classed as full time students for Council Tax purposes.

Students and landlords should contact us as soon as the students move into the property so they do not lose any entitlement to exemptions or discounts.

A property is also exempt during any vacation in which students hold a tenancy or a license to occupy the property and they have previously used, or intend to use, the dwelling as term time accommodation.

Therefore, if students hold a retainer over the summer period, the property would continue to be exempt on the basis they have the right to occupy and intend to move in when term starts.

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations. 

Living accommodation for UK armed forces which is owned by the Secretary of State for Defence is exempt whether it is occupied or not.

This includes barracks and other accommodation on military bases, together with married quarters, as long as this accommodation is held for the purposes of forces accommodation.

A dwelling is exempt if any one of the persons who would be liable to pay the Council Tax has a "relevant association" with a visiting force from a country to which the Visiting Forces Act 1952 applies.

A person has a relevant association with a visiting force if he or she is:

  • a member of that force, or a member of a civilian component of the force
    or
  • a dependant of a member, provided that the dependant is not a British citizen or is not ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom

A dwelling owned or rented by a person with a relevant association is exempt even though other people may live in the dwelling who do not have such an association.

The exemption does not apply if the person associated with the visiting force would not be a liable person.

A property that is only occupied by a person who is, or by persons who are, under 18 years of age is exempt from having to pay Council Tax.

We will ask you to provide proof of the date of birth for the occupiers (such as a birth certificate, passport or benefit entitlement letters).

If you are under 18 years old, you cannot have your name on a Council Tax bill, so usually the person who is sent the bill will be the landlord or the owner of the property.

We review this exemption periodically during the year to ensure our records are up to date; however, if you have the exemption granted you do have a legal obligation to tell us within 21 days of any changes in circumstances that may affect the reduction (e.g. someone else moves in, or if the occupier reaches their 18th birthday).

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations.

If a dwelling is only occupied by people who are classed as "severely mentally impaired" it is exempt from Council Tax. However, this is only the case if the person whose name appears on the bill lives in the dwelling and is also classed as "severely mentally impaired".

If a person living at a property is classed as "severely mentally impaired", and they live with other people, that person is "disregarded" from Council Tax. This means we do not count them when calculating the number of people living in the house. If, by not counting that person, the number of people living in the property is just one, a 25% discount may be granted.

How do I qualify?

Firstly you must be in receipt of one of the state benefits listed below:

  • an Incapacity Benefit under Section 30A of the Social Security (Contributions and Benefits) Act 1992
  • an Attendance Allowance under Section 64 of the Act
  • a Severe Disablement Allowance under Section 68 of the Act
  • The Care Component of a Disability Living Allowance under Section 71 of that Act, which should be payable at the middle or highest rate
  • an increase in the rate of his/her Disablement Pension under Section 104 of the Act, where constant attendance is needed
  • a disability Working Allowance under Section 129 of the Act, for which the qualifying benefit is one that falls within subsection (2) (a) (i) or (ii) of that section; or it is a corresponding Northern Ireland benefit
  • an Unemployability Supplement under Part I Schedule 7 to that Act
  • a Constant Attendance under:
    • Article 14 of the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme  1983; or
    • Article 14 of the Naval, Military and Air Forces etc. (Disablement and Death) Service Pensions Order 1983
  • an Unemployability Allowance under:
    • Article 18(1) of the Personal Injuries (Civilians) Scheme 1983; or
    • Article 18 (1) of the Naval, Military and Air Forces etc. (Disablement and Death) Service Pensions Order 1983
  • Income Support where the applicable amount includes a disability premium in respect of which the additional condition in paragraph 12(1)(b) of Schedule 2 to the Income support (General) Regulations 1987 is satisfied
  • Incapacity Benefit under SS40 and 41 of the SSBC Act 1992
  • the standard or enhanced rate of the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment under section 78(3) of the Welfare Reform Act 2012
  • Universal Credit which includes an amount under regulation 27(1) of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 in respect of the fact that the person in question has limited capability for work or limited capability for work and work-related activity or would include such an amount but for regulation 27(4) or 29(4) of those Regulations

Secondly, a qualified medical practitioner (usually your doctor) must confirm to us that in their medical opinion you are "severely mentally impaired".

What is the definition of "severely mentally impaired"?

"Severely mentally impaired" means a person who has severe impairment of intelligence and social functioning (however caused), which appears to be permanent.

Can somebody else apply on my behalf?

A relative, friend or social worker can apply on your behalf if you are unable to complete the forms yourself.

What happens if I qualify?

We will send you a new bill to show you the exemption has been granted.

You must tell us within 21 days about any changes in circumstances that may effect your entitlement to the exemption (such as other people moving in with you).

We will review this exemption each year and we may write to you or your representative asking for confirmation that the exemption is still correct.

How to apply

Select your local area to apply:

A dwelling is exempt from Council Tax under this class if at least one person, whose name appears on the Council Tax bill, satisfies any of the following conditions:

  • a person on whom privileges and immunities are conferred by the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964
  • a person on whom privileges and immunities are conferred under the Commonwealth Secretarial Act 1966
  • a person on whom privileges and immunities are conferred by the Consular Relations Act 1968
  • a class of person mentioned in relation to any organisation specified in an Order in Council made under the International Organisations Act 1968
  • a person on whom privileges and immunities are conferred by the Commonwealth Countries and Republic of Ireland (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1985
  • the head of any office established under the Hong Kong Economic Trade Act 1966

As long as:

  • the person is not a British citizen or British subject or a permanent resident of the United Kingdom
    and
  • there is no other dwelling in the UK, which is the main residence of that person

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations.

An ‘annexe’ is defined in Council Tax regulations as a dwelling which forms part of a single property which includes another dwelling and which may not be let separately from that other dwelling without a breach of planning controls.

Occupied annexes are exempt if occupied as the home of a dependent relative of a person living in the main dwelling.

A relative is to be regarded as dependent if they are:

  • aged 65 years or more
  • under 65 but severely mentally impaired
    or
  • under 65 but substantially and permanently disabled

The following are ‘relatives’ for the purpose of the exemption:

  • Spouse
  • Parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle or aunt, nephew or niece, great-grandparent, great-grandchild, great-uncle, great-aunt, great-nephew or great-niece

If you do not have access to a printer, you will be asked to confirm whether you require us to send you a paper form in the post if we need any signed authority.

Frequently asked questions

Q. My annexe is currently exempt as my dependant mother lives there. What happens when my mother moves out and the annexe is empty?
A. The exemption will end and the annex would be subject to empty property Council Tax charges
Q. I do not believe the annexe should be treated as a separate dwelling to the main house. What should I do?
A. Contact the Valuation Office Agency who can review whether the annexe should be classed as a separate annexe or not.

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations.

Some dwellings are exempt from the payment of Council Tax. Exemptions can apply to both occupied or unoccupied properties. Certain exemptions are indefinite but others can only be granted for a limited period of time.

Apply

The exemption classes are listed below. Unless specified otherwise, please select your local area to apply:

Exemptions applying indefinitely to unoccupied properties

If the dwelling is left empty, providing it was previously your sole or main residence (i.e. your home), it will usually be exempt.

An exemption will apply if you are:

  • detained in prison or hospital by order of a court
  • detained under the Deportation Provisions of Immigration Act 1971
  • detained under the Mental Health Act 1983
  • imprisoned, detained or in custody for more than 48 hours under the Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 or the Naval Discipline Act 1957.

A person who is in police custody before his/her first court appearance or someone who is detained for non-payment of Council Tax or a fine will not qualify for an exemption.

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations.

We will need the name of the person applying for the exemption, the name and address of the establishment held and the prisoner reference number (if applicable and known).

This exemption applies to unoccupied dwellings where the owner or tenant of a dwelling has their sole or main residence (their home) in a residential care home, nursing home, hospital or hostel in which they are receiving care or treatment.

The property must have previously been the home of the person who is now living in residential care, a nursing home, or hospital, and they must have been living there since they moved out of the dwelling.

The dwelling can be exempt regardless of whether it is furnished or unfurnished, and will qualify for the exemption as long as the person whose name appears on the bill is resides permanently in residential care.

Frequently asked questions

Q. My parent has gone into respite care in a residential care home for four weeks. Do they qualify for an exemption?
A. Unfortunately not. The exemption can only be granted if a person has permanently moved into residential care. As your parent intends to return they will continue to be charged Council Tax at their home address
Q. I am moving permanently into residential care, but as I cannot take my furniture with me the house will remain furnished until sold. Can I have a reduction in Council Tax?
A. Yes, as you have no intention to return to the dwelling you will be exempt from paying Council Tax on it regardless of whether it is furnished or not.
Q. My parent has gone into residential care for a two month trial period. If they like the care home they will remain there but if not, they may come home. Is there any reduction available?
A. Whilst it is undecided whether your parent will stay in residential care or not, they will still be charged Council Tax at their home. If they decide to stay there we will grant the exemption from the date they first went into care. Please make sure you keep the council advised.
Q. I have been told that I will have to stay in hospital for four weeks. Can I have an exemption from Council Tax?
A. The exemption only applies when a house is unoccupied because someone has moved permanently. If there is an intention to return to the property once recovered, no exemption can be granted.

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations.

Please let us know:

  • the date the property became empty
  • the address of the residential care home, nursing home, or hospital where you are now living
  • if you would like us to correspond with a family member, friend or solicitor please provide their details
  • you must confirm whether or not you intend to return to the property

We may contact you if we need any more information to help us determine whether you qualify for the exemption.

What happens if I qualify for exemption?

We will send you a new bill showing you we have granted the exemption. If you are due a refund it will be automatically sent to you.

At the start of each year we will send you a new bill showing you that the exemption is to continue, and to ensure that our records are accurate we will contact you periodically and ask you to confirm that there have been no changes.

You have a legal responsibility to advise the council within twenty-one days of any changes in circumstances that may affect your entitlement to the exemption. Examples of changes would be if you sell the property or if someone moves in.

An unoccupied property is exempt from Council Tax if its occupation is:

  • restricted by a planning condition that prevents occupancy (under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990);
  • prohibited by law
    or
  • if it is kept unoccupied by reason of action taken to prohibit occupation, or with a view to acquiring it, under powers conferred by any Act of Parliament. 

The exemption only applies where the property is unoccupied. If the property is occupied illegally the exemption does not apply. In most cases the person living there would be the person who must pay the tax.

Unoccupancy stemming from action between individuals or companies under contract law does not amount to a prohibition on occupation for the purposes of the exemption.

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations.

We will need to see evidence that occupation is prohibited, and you will be asked to provide this as part of the application process.

Unoccupied dwellings, which are being held available for a minister of religion, as a residence from which he or she will perform the duties of their office, are exempt from Council Tax.

The exemption applies to a property being held for a minister of any religious denomination.

If you qualify for the exemption you have a legal responsibility to tell the council within 21 days of any changes in circumstances that may affect your eligibility for the exemption.

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations.

A property is exempt from paying council if it is empty because the person whose name appears on the Council Tax bill had to leave the property permanently to live elsewhere to receive care.

The person whom is being cared for must require care for one of the following reasons:

  • old age
  • disablement
  • illness
  • past or present alcohol or drug dependence
  • past or present mental disorder.

You must have left the property to receive care elsewhere, and you cannot have moved anywhere else in between leaving the property and moving to receive that care.

We will review this exemption periodically to ensure our records are up to date; however, you are legally obliged to tell the council within 21 days of any changes that may affect the reduction (e.g. someone moves in, or you sell the property).

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations.

Frequently asked questions

Q. Is there a time limit for how long this exemption lasts?
A. No, as long as the property is empty and you are still being cared for, the exemption will continue to apply. 
Q. Does the property have to be unfurnished to qualify?
A. No. The property can be furnished or unfurnished.
Q. I am moving out temporarily to be looked after by a relative whilst I am are recovering from an illness. Do I qualify?
A. Unfortunately not, to qualify for the exemption the move must be permanent. You must have left the property to receive permanent care, and have no intention to return.

A property is exempt from paying council if it is empty because the person whose name appears on the council tax bill had to leave the property permanently to live elsewhere to provide care for someone.

The person whom is being cared for must require care for one of the following reasons:

  • old age
  • disablement
  • illness
  • past or present alcohol or drug dependence
  • past or present mental disorder.

You must have left the property to care for that person, (i.e. you cannot have moved anywhere else in between leaving the property and moving to care for that person).

We will review this exemption periodically during the year to ensure our records are up to date; however, you are legally obliged to tell the council within 21 days of any changes that may affect the reduction (ie someone moves in, or you sell the property).

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations.

Frequently asked questions

Q. Is there a time limit for how long this exemption lasts?
A. No, as long as the property is empty and you are still caring for another person, the exemption will continue to apply.  
Q. Does the property have to be unfurnished to qualify?
A. No. The property can be furnished or unfurnished
Q. I am moving out temporarily to look after my relative whilst they are recovering from an illness. Do I qualify?
A. Unfortunately not, to qualify for exemption the move must be permanent. You must have left the property to care for someone, and have no intention to return.

Where a student is the owner of an unoccupied dwelling, the property is exempt provided that when it was last occupied, it was the sole or main residence (i.e the home) of that student, and that no one else, other than students, lived there.

The exemption applies whether the person was already a student when they left the dwelling or if become a student after changing their main residence. He or she must have become a student within 6 weeks of leaving the property for the exemption to apply and the exemption only continues as long as the person remains a student.

This exemption applies only in respect of academic students (for example, students who are on full time and qualifying courses of education and foreign language assistants).

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations.

Frequently asked questions

Q. If I moved away to study and qualify for this exemption, would I be able to rent the property to tenants ?
A. You would be exempt from Council Tax until the tenants moved in. Once the tenants occupied they would be liable for Council Tax. When the tenants moved out, you would not qualify for the exemption, as a student did not last occupy the property.

The mortgagee in relation to a mortgage is the organisation who provided a loan (e.g. a bank or building society) who has granted a mortgage on the property as security.

The mortgagor is the person who has mortgaged their property in return for receiving the loan.

If there is default on repaying the loan, the mortgage deed usually enables the mortgagee to take possession of the property and the property may be sold to repay the outstanding loan.

If a property is empty and the mortgagee takes possession under the mortgage, it is exempt from Council Tax. 

If the property is still occupied when the mortgagee takes possession, the exemption does not commence until the occupants vacate the dwelling.

The exemption continues until either possession is relinquished or the property is sold.

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations.

Frequently asked questions

Q. I have handed the keys to my property back to the building society. Am I exempt?
A. This will depend whether the property has been legally repossessed or not. The exemption can only be granted from the date the building society formally takes legal possession of the property.

Where the person who would be liable for the Council Tax in respect of an unoccupied dwelling is a trustee in bankruptcy, the dwelling is exempt from paying Council Tax.

The exemption applies whether the unoccupied dwelling is furnished or not, and avoids charges being incurred by the trustee which cannot be met from the estate of the bankrupt individual.

The exemption applies whether or not the trustee is jointly liable with any other person.

A caravan pitch or a boat mooring is classed as a dwelling for Council Tax if it is currently being used as a person's sole or main residence, or its next use is likely to be that of a domestic residence. 

A pitch, which is not occupied by a caravan, or a mooring, which is not occupied by a boat, is exempt for the whole of any period during which this situation exists.

The exemption ceases as soon as a caravan or boat is moved to the pitch or mooring, and a person living in the caravan or boat would pay Council Tax if that caravan or boat is their sole or main residence (i.e. their home). 
This information is a general guidance and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations.

This exemption may be granted where an annexe is empty and cannot be let separately without a breach of planning control under section 171A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

An 'annexe' for the purpose of Class T is defined as a dwelling which forms part of a single property which includes another dwelling.

This exemption can be granted regardless of whether the property is furnished or not, and continues as long as nobody is living in the annexe.

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations.

Exemptions applying for a limited period only

Empty properties owned by a charity are exempt for up to 6 months from the date that the last resident vacated, provided that the property was being used for the purposes of the charity up to the date the last occupier moved out. After six months the full council tax charge is due.

The exemption applies whether or not the property contains furniture.

Frequently asked questions

Q. I am a charity worker; do I qualify for exemption?
A. Unfortunately not. The exemption only applies to empty properties owned by a charity. 
Q. We are a registered charity and own a flat above a charity shop, which we rent to tenants. Are we exempt when the property is empty?
A. No. The exemption is aimed at empty properties that were used for charitable purposes, such as housing those with special needs. In this instance the charity is purely the landlord of a property, and the last occupier was not resident for purposes of that charity. 
Q. We are a registered charity and persons with special needs occupy the property. Do we qualify for the exemption? 
A. No. This exemption only applies to properties that are unoccupied; however, please see exemption Class U for more details on properties that are occupied by persons with severe mental impairment. 
Q. Is there a time limit? 
A. Yes. The exemption can only be granted for six months from the date the property was last occupied (regardless of whether it is furnished or not). After six months if the property is still unoccupied the charity will be charged full Council Tax until someone else moves in.
Q. Do Housing Associations qualify for this exemption?
A. The High Court has ruled that a written application should be made by each applicant. As such, the council will consider granting exemption upon individual application from a Housing Association on a case by case basis.

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations. 

How to apply

When a property had been occupied by a single person, who either owned or rented the property and that person dies, the property is exempt from Council Tax payment for as long as it remains unoccupied, and until probate is granted.

Following a grant of probate, a further six months exemption is possible as long as the property remain unoccupied and has not been sold or transferred to someone else. 

It is important that the executor(s) keep the Council Tax office informed of:

  • the date probate is granted
  • details of the transfer or sale of the property or the end date of the tenancy
  • when the estate is settled

During this time the council may contact the executors periodically to review entitlement to the exemption.
Six months from the date probate is granted the full Council Tax will be due to be paid by the executors of the estate.

When a property was previously occupied by two adults the Council Tax charge might have been in both names or only in the name of one of the occupants.

Providing only one person continues to live in the property we will transfer the Council Tax name solely into their name and grant a 25% sole occupier discount.

More than two adults living in a property

If a property was occupied by more than two adults, and one person dies, we will transfer the Council Tax into the name of the remaining owner/occupiers or joint tenants.

Council Tax liability for executors

Executors are the people appointed in the will to deal with the estate of a person who has died.

When probate is granted a document is issued to the executor providing them with the authority to deal with the estate.

If, after probate is granted, ownership of a property is transferred to a beneficiary of the will, any liability for Council Tax passes to the beneficiary. 

If for any reason after probate has been granted the property remains under the control of the estate for more than six moths, a full Council Tax charge is due. The executor is responsible for making payment of the Council Tax.

The executor is not personally liable for Council Tax charges, and payment should be made from the deceased's estate.

If the executor cannot make payment for any reason they should contact the council immediately.

This is a general guide to Council Tax and is not a substitute for the relevant statutes and regulations.

We will need the name and address of the deceased, Council Tax account number (if known), details of any residents remaining in the property and a copy of the death certificate. 

Last updated 20 May 2024