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What should I do if my tenant doesn't pay the council tax?

Council tax shouldn't be an issue for private landlords. Yet it can sometimes turn into a messy situation when a tenant doesn't pay their bills. Especially when the landlord starts receiving letters from the local council threatening recovery action. But what should you do if you find yourself in this situation?

What is council tax?

The local council set the tax on every residential property. The amount you pay depends on which 'band' your property sits in. However, because it's a local tax rates vary across the country.

Who's responsible for paying the council tax?

In most cases the occupier of the property pays the tax. This means your tenant will have to pay. However, there are instances when it's the landlord's responsibility to pay the tax. We'll discuss this shortly.

But, as we've mentioned, in the majority of cases the tenant will pay. But, just to remove any doubt, your tenancy agreement should always include a clause stipulating the tenant is responsible for council tax.

At the start of every tenancy you must inform the council a new occupier has moved into your property. Most councils will have an online form for you to complete. If you use a letting agent to manage your property, they will contact the council on your behalf. This ensures the council tax bills will go to your tenant and not yourself.

What happens if the tenant doesn't pay the council tax?

Your tenant has two options for paying their council tax. Either a single or monthly payment. Most tenants will opt to pay their council tax bills in instalments. But the whole of the outstanding balance becomes payable if a payment is missed and reminders ignored. The council will take recovery action if the bill reminds unpaid. This could be an attachment of earnings. Or they could instruct bailiffs.

Sometimes you may receive a demand for payment. This could happen if you or your letting agent failed to notify the council of the new tenant. Or it could simply be an administrative error. Whatever the case you should notify the council immediately that you aren't occupying the property and supply them with your tenant's details.

You may also receive a demand for outstanding council tax owed by a previous tenant. Again, you're not responsible for paying this. But you should supply the council with all the details you have on your previous tenant. This should include the dates they occupied the property and a forwarding address if you have it.

The important thing to remember if you receive a demand for council tax is to always contact the council immediately. Don't think the situation will resolve itself. Failure to act could cause issues. Especially if the council has begun recovery action. Far better to sort things out straight away with a phone call.

When is a private landlord is responsible for paying council tax?

Although the occupier is liable for council tax you must remember when the property is empty is becomes your responsibility. You become liable for the tax during any void periods. Even if it's just a few days between tenancies. This can catch private landlords out.

The only other occasions when you would be responsible for paying council tax is if you live in the property with the tenant or if the property is an HMO.

Private landlords can find tenants fast by listing their property with MakeUrMove the 24 hour letting platform.

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