Most students are exempt from Council Tax – but keep reading!!

Despite your possible exemption, it is important to know the facts about Council Tax, check whether you are really exempt and how you make sure your landlord and the Council know this and finally what to do if you receive a bill.

What is Council Tax?

Council Tax is collected by local councils to cover services such the local Police, road maintenance, rubbish collection, street lighting and care for the vulnerable and homeless.

Council Tax liability is assessed in March of each year with a new bill calculated, produced and sent out in April.

Is your property exempt?

Student accommodation that is built for students only and is normally exempt as a whole dwelling.  This would include University Halls as well as private purpose built student accommodation.  If only students live there, it will therefore be highly unlikely that any students within the hall will receive a bill.

Privately owned houses or flats are not exempt. Therefore an assessment as to whether anyone is liable for Council Tax will be carried out.

The first person deemed to be responsible under law for Council Tax is the owner of the property; however as landlords do not normally live with their tenants, it is usually the case the residents of a property is considered as responsible as default.

However if the property is only occupied by full time students, this will mean the property becomes exempt and therefore no tax to pay.

Are students exempt from Council Tax?

If your course lasts at least a year you are classed as a full time student and therefore exempt. The course must last for at least 24 weeks out of the year and involve at least 21 hours of study, tuition or work experience per week during term time.

How do you prove your exemption?

We advise you don’t assume you are exempt, but take steps to make sure the Council and your landlord are fully aware.

Firstly, you should obtain a council tax exemption certificate, this document is proof from your University that you are a full time student and that you are not liable for Council Tax. You should submit this to the local council (but do keep a copy).

Secondly, your landlord may ask you for this for their own records and to ensure that they will not be chased by the Council for payment after you have moved out.

You may also be asked for a copy of your certificate by the owners of the purpose built accommodation too, this is so that they can retain their exemption and prove student occupancy.

Your university might do their own check to ensure that they are not issuing a certificate to an individual that they feel is not exempt.

If you do not agree with their decision to not issue you an exemption certificate, ask them to explain the reason to you and if you disagree, take some advice from your Students’ Union to see if you can challenge this.

Students who might be liable

Sometimes even though students are enrolled with their University, their status means that they could find themselves liable for Council Tax.

You might encounter a problem if you are required to sit out a year before proceeding to the next year of their course.

This can then bring the status of “enrolled but not attending” and if your university will not issue the exemption certificate, you will then be liable for Council Tax.

There may be scope for a discount on the overall bill if you are the only liable person in the household and possibly help towards paying the Council Tax from the local council. Get advice if you are in this position.

If you are a PhD student reaching the ‘writing-up’ stage, you might not meet the definition of ‘full time student’ and also find yourself in the same situation.

Many Universities will only issue an exemption certificate for students who are writing up for the first six months and after this, students will need to pay Council Tax. Again, seek advice.

Individuals attracting liability to the property

You may find yourself living with a non-student, this will bring an end to the exemption of the property. (This is in a non-purpose built student accommodation).

This also might happen if someone lives at the property as a full time student but for some reason leaves University but remains living in the property.

The Council will issue a bill in both of these cases. This will go to the property but the only person responsible for the Council Tax is the non-student. The students within the property will remain exempt will not be liable.

If you are an international student who can bring their family to the UK, there is no liability as long as your spouse’s immigration conditions are that they cannot claim public funds or are unable to work. Proof of these immigration conditions should be given to the Council as well as the exemption certificate for the student.

You will also be liable in the summer period if you have completed one course and are waiting to join a new one.

Council Tax Enforcement and Prosecution

Even if you are a full-time student, do not ignore any bills, letters or demands you receive; even if you think you do not need to pay, you must talk to your Council.
Remember, it is your obligation to prove you are not liable.

If you ignore the paperwork or cannot reach an agreement with the Council, they will continue to pursue you for this debt. They will not let the matter drop because for example they have not heard from you.

A liability order enforces the payment of Council Tax is enforced through the Magistrates court, it gives the Council formal recognition of the debt you owe and they are able to further pursue you for this payment with a range of enforcement methods.

Included within this is a prison sentence but this is very rarely used. Usually, bailiffs are instructed and can come to your property, enter with your permission and take your possessions to the value of the debt to be sold.

You do not have to let the bailiffs into your home and they should not force their way into your property unless you have let them in on a previous visit or you have broken the agreement you made.

If you receive a Council Tax bill, liability order paperwork or a bailiff letter or visit, get advice straight away.

In conclusion, Council Tax should be very simple – as long as you are a full time student, make sure you get the right paperwork and deliver it to the right people who need it, there should be no issues. For further information visit –

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

Reviewed 09.02.2024

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