«WHO PAYS THE BILL? 1. Who has to pay the council tax? 3 2. Are the residents always liable? 4 3. Does only one person have to pay in each dwelling? 5 ...»
In order not to be counted, a person will need a certificate from his or her doctor to say that he or she is severely mentally impaired. The person must also be entitled to one of a number of benefits including certain incapacity benefits, disability allowances, unemployability allowances or attendance allowances.
PEOPLE STAYING IN CERTAIN HOSTELS OR
NIGHT SHELTERSA person whose main or only residence is in a dwelling such as a short stay hostel or night shelter providing communal accommodation for people who have no fixed abode and no settled way of life is not counted.
MONKS AND NUNSYou will not be counted if you are a member of a religious community, provided that you depend on the community for your material needs and have no personal income or capital. (This will still apply if you receive income from a pension or pensions from a former job.) Only members of religious communities whose main work is prayer, contemplation, the relief of suffering, education or any combination of these are not counted.
18 AND 19 YEAR OLDS You will not be counted if you are 18 or 19 years old and are in full-time education (other than higher education). This includes people of that age who are at school or college and are on courses up to, and including, A level standard.
You will also not be counted if you are at least 18 years old and someone is entitled to child benefit in respect of you, or would be if you were not in local authority care.
If you are an 18 or 19 year old who left school after 30 April you will not be counted until 1 November of the same year. (You may continue to get a discount as a student if you go on to further or higher education.)
CARERSYou will not be counted if you live with, and care for, a person with a disability who is receiving one of certain allowances or disablement pensions. You must be providing care for at least 35 hours a week on average.
But you will be counted if you are caring for your husband or wife (or partner with whom you live as husband or wife), or your child under 18 years old.
Someone who cares for an elderly person or a person with a disability in return for payment of up to £36 a week will not be counted. Such a person will usually belong to an organisation like Community Service Volunteers, but could be employed by a public body or (in certain circumstances) by the person for whom they care.
PEOPLE IN PRISONPrisoners who are on remand or in prison are not counted. However, people who are imprisoned for not paying a fine or the council tax are counted.
MEMBERS OF VISITING FORCES,
INTERNATIONAL HEADQUARTERS AND
DEFENCE ORGANISATIONSYou will be not be counted if you are a member of a visiting force, or a member (or dependant of a member) of certain International Headquarters and Defence Organisations or have diplomatic privileges and immunities.
13. How will councils know when to apply a discount?
Councils are required to make sure that discounts are being granted to the right households in their area. They may do this by sending out forms asking for information.
If you get a form asking about discounts, you do not have to return it but, if you think you are eligible, returning the form may speed up the award of a discount.
When it sends out its bills, your council will have decided whether it thinks a discount applies to your home. If there is no discount and you think you should get one, you should write to your council explaining why. Your council will tell you what evidence you will need to provide in support of a claim. The council has two months to make a decision. If you still disagree with the council, or if it has not acted within the two month period, you will be able to appeal to a Valuation Tribunal. How to appeal is explained on pages 22–24. You should continue to pay your original bill whilst your appeal is outstanding.
If the council has given you a discount but you are not entitled to one, or are no longer entitled to one, you must write to say so or you may face a penalty.
14. What sort of dwellings are exempt?
Some dwellings are exempt from the council tax.
Pages 12 to 14 broadly explain which types of dwelling may be exempt and where they will be exempt only for a specified length of time.
Dwellings are exempt if they are:
• occupied entirely by full time students, or by students as term time accommodation, or are a student hall of residence. However, dwellings occupied by a mixture of full time students and people who are not full time students will receive a bill. It will be for the members of the household to decide how to apportion the bill but the full time students will not be liable for the council tax;
• occupied only by people under the age of 18;
• armed forces accommodation or dwellings where a member of a visiting force would otherwise be liable to pay;
• an annex, occupied as their main residence, by a dependent relative of someone who is a resident in the main dwelling;
• occupied only by people who are severely mentally impaired who would otherwise be liable to pay the council tax. Such dwellings where the landlord or carehome owner is liable are not exempt;
• the main residence of someone with diplomatic privilege or immunity.
Dwellings are exempt for a limited period if they are:
• dwellings which have been unoccupied and (except in the case of dwellings owned and last occupied by a charity) unfurnished, for up to six months;
• unoccupied dwellings undergoing major repair work to render them habitable or undergoing structural alteration, for up to twelve months. The exemption will continue for up to six months from the date the work is substantially completed, provided that this does not take the total period of exemption to more than twelve months;
The following dwellings are exempt while they remain
• dwellings where the owner is a student who last lived in the dwelling as their main home;
• dwellings left unoccupied by people who are in prison (except for non-payment of a fine or council tax). The dwelling must have been their main home immediately before they went into prison;
• dwellings left unoccupied by people who have moved to receive personal care, whether in a hospital or home or elsewhere. They must have been away for this reason since they left;
• dwellings left unoccupied by people who have moved to provide personal care to another person. They must have been away for this reason since they left;
• annexes which cannot be let separately from the main dwelling without breaching planning conditions;
• dwellings where the liable person is a trustee in bankruptcy;
• repossessed dwellings;
• dwellings whose occupation is forbidden by law, or which are kept unoccupied because of impending compulsory purchase;
• vicarages and similar dwellings which are awaiting occupation by ministers of religion, from where they will perform their duties;
• dwellings which have been taken into possession by a mortgage lender.
15. Will I get a bill for an exempt dwelling?
If you own one of these types of dwelling you should not receive a council tax bill for it, but the council will send you information to let you know which valuation band the property has been placed in and what the council tax would be if it were not exempt.
If the council writes to tell you that it believes your property is exempt, but you realise that it should not be, you must write and tell the council or you may face a penalty.
16. What can I do if the council says my property is not exempt?
If the council decides your dwelling is not exempt and you disagree, you should write to the council saying why you think your property should be exempt. The council has two months to provide an answer. If you still disagree with the council, or if it has not acted within the two month period, you can appeal to a Valuation Tribunal.
How to appeal is explained on pages 22–24. You should continue to pay your original bill whilst your appeal is outstanding.
17. What if a discount or exemption has been awarded in error?
If the council has given you a discount or an exemption but you are not entitled to one, you must let the council know or you may face a penalty. If you have been receiving a discount or exemption when you should not have been and this comes to light, the additional liability can be backdated to cover the period where it can be shown that the same circumstances have applied. Where a person claims a discount or exemption to which they know that they are not entitled, then they may also be subject to prosecution under the Theft Act 1968.
18. What is the reduction for disabilities scheme?
Your bill may be reduced if your home has certain features which are essential, or of major importance, to the well-being of a person with a disability, whether an adult or child, who is resident in the dwelling. These
• an additional bathroom or kitchen required for the use of the person with the disability;
• any other room (except a toilet) which is predominantly used by the disabled person;
• extra space inside the dwelling to allow for the use of a wheelchair.
To qualify for a reduction, the extra room need not be specially built, and can be an existing room. It must however be essential or of major importance to the wellbeing of the person with the disability. So, simply rearranging rooms (for example, having a bedroom on the ground floor rather than the first floor) will not make your home eligible for a reduction unless the link between its use and the person’s disability is sufficiently strong.
The scheme is designed to help disabled people who live in larger houses than they would have needed if they were not disabled or where the living area for normal use has been reduced. The scheme is therefore not available generally to all disabled people.
19. By how much will my bill be reduced?
So that households do not face higher council tax bills than would otherwise be the case because of the special needs of a person with a disability, there is a one band reduction in their bills. If your home is eligible, your bill will be reduced to that of a property in the valuation band immediately below the band shown on the valuation list.
For example, if your home is in band D, your bill will be reduced to that for a band C dwelling. This will not, however, affect the value of your home or its banding on the valuation list. In this example, it would still be shown as band D on the valuation list.
If your home is in band A, there is not a lower band your dwelling can be reduced to. However, you will receive a reduction which will be the same in cash terms as the reductions for homes in bands B, C and D.
20. How will councils know where reductions should apply?
You should write to your council if you think you may be entitled to a reduction for a person with a disability in your home. The council will send you an application form and may ask for other information to support your claim.
For example, you may need to provide a letter from your doctor, or someone like an occupational therapist or social worker, saying that the person with the disability needs the extra space or room because of it.
21. What can I do if the council won’t give me a reduction?
Once the council has made a calculation of your council tax, you should write to your council giving the reasons why you think you should get a reduction for a person with a disability. The council has two months to make a decision. If you still disagree with the council, or if it has not acted within the two month period, you will be able to appeal to a Valuation Tribunal. How to appeal is explained on pages 22–24. You should continue to pay your original bill whilst your appeal is outstanding.
PAYING YOUR BILL
22. When will I get my bill and when will I have to pay?
You will normally receive your council tax bill in March or April. Bills are normally sent by post but some councils offer to send it electronically if you give your council an e-mail address for this purpose. The bill will tell you the amount you have to pay and how that amount has been worked out. The bill will also set out the amount of each instalment and the dates on which each one should be paid. Normally, you will be offered ten instalments, although that number will be reduced if the bill is issued after the end of April. The council can allow payment over a different period such as 12 months or 52 weeks, but will normally only do so in exceptional circumstances, such as cases of hardship.
23. What if the bill is wrong?
If you think the bill is wrong in any way you should tell the council immediately. Unless you make other arrangements with the council, you must continue to pay the amounts set out in your original bill until you are sent a revised bill.
24. What if the amount I have to pay changes during the year?
If the amount of council tax you have to pay changes during the year, perhaps because your entitlement to a discount or benefit changes, you will get a new bill. This will tell you what the new amount for the year is, and what instalments you now have to pay.
25. What if I have trouble paying the bill?
As soon as you realise you have a problem paying your bill you should talk to your council; you may be entitled to a reduction in your bill, for example, through council tax benefit. The council may also be able to help you by rescheduling your payments. But do not ignore the bill completely; if you do not pay it and fail to agree in writing any other arrangement with the council, they may take recovery action which could increase considerably the amount you have to pay.