Understanding Council Tax in London

Council tax is a local tax levied by individual boroughs in London to fund essential services within their jurisdiction. It contributes to vital infrastructure like schools, libraries, waste collection, street cleaning, parks, and social care. The tax amount varies depending on two key factors:

  • Property band: Each property in London is assigned a valuation band (A to H) based on its market value. Higher-valued properties fall into higher bands and incur a more considerable council tax burden.
  • Local council multiplier: Each borough sets a unique multiplier applied to the property band value to determine the final council tax amount. This allows boroughs with higher service demands to raise more revenue.


Now, with the fundamentals clear, let’s explore the intricacies of council tax responsibilities in the London rental market. Remember, specific regulations might differ slightly depending on your borough, so double-checking with your local council is always recommended.


Council Tax Responsibilities for Tenants

As a tenant of a luxury home in London, understanding your council tax obligations is crucial for responsible renting. In most cases, you, the tenant, are responsible for paying council tax on your property. This aligns with your broader financial responsibility for the upkeep and ongoing costs associated with your residence.

However, it’s crucial to emphasise that this isn’t always the case. As a general rule, as a main tenant with an assured shorthold tenancy for six months or more, you are legally liable for paying council tax, regardless of the number of occupants. Remember, this applies even after you move out if the tenancy has yet to end officially.


However, there are some exceptions:

  • Students: Full-time students are typically exempt from paying council tax, provided they are the only occupant or live with other full-time students.
  • Specific exemptions: Certain circumstances can qualify you for council tax discounts or reductions, such as being on a low income, living with someone with severe disabilities, or being a full-time carer. Check with your local council for eligibility criteria.
  • House in Multiple Occupation (HMO): In HMOs, where several unrelated individuals share amenities, the landlord might be responsible for council tax depending on the tenancy agreement and specific property details. Always clarify this with your landlord before signing a contract.


It is essential to discuss council tax responsibilities with your landlord before signing a tenancy agreement. If you are unsure about your specific rental situation, contact your local council for clarification.


Council Tax Responsibilities for Landlords

While tenants are usually responsible for paying the council as part of their rental agreements, there are scenarios where landlords might need to step in and fulfil this responsibility. Here is a breakdown of when a landlord becomes liable for council tax:

  • Empty properties: When a property stands vacant with no occupants, the responsibility for council tax shifts to the landlord. This applies from the day the last tenant vacates until a new tenancy begins. It’s important to note that no discounts or exemptions are available during this period, so plan accordingly.
  • House in Multiple Occupation (HMO): In HMOs with individual tenancy agreements for each occupant, the landlord typically holds council tax responsibility unless explicitly stated otherwise in the agreements. This is because no single “household” occupies the property, triggering a shift in liability.
  • Specific agreements with tenants: Landlords and tenants can reach mutually agreed-upon arrangements regarding council tax within the tenancy agreement. These arrangements may involve the landlord factoring council tax into the rent or incorporating it as a separate billing item. Always ensure such agreements are clearly documented and legally binding.
  • Additional obligations: Landlords have specific responsibilities even when tenants handle council tax payments. They should provide accurate property information to the council to ensure correct band valuation and promptly inform them of any changes in tenancy situations that might affect the liability.


Landlords should familiarise themselves with council tax rules in their specific borough for accurate liability assessment and provide accurate property information to the council.


Communicating and Resolving Issues

While understanding council tax responsibilities is crucial, avoiding issues requires effective communication and collaboration between tenants and landlords. Here are some key strategies to establish a positive and productive approach:

  • Start by discussing council tax responsibilities before signing a tenancy agreement. Ensure all parties understand their obligations and expectations.
  • Clearly outline council tax arrangements in the tenancy agreement, including who is responsible for payment, the payment method, and any specific deadlines.
  • Maintain ongoing communication regarding any changes in tenancy, property status, or potential issues that could affect council tax liability.


Cooperative Resolution

  • Address any concerns or discrepancies promptly. Feel free to discuss issues directly with your landlord or tenant before they escalate.
  • Work together to find solutions that are fair and beneficial to both parties. Explore options like adjusting rent amounts or discussing alternative payment plans if necessary.
  • If communication or resolution efforts prove unsuccessful, consider seeking advice from citizens’ advice organisations, local council authorities, or professional mediation services.


It can help tenants and landlords to keep updated on any council tax changes or exemptions that might affect their situation. Share relevant information with your landlord or tenant as needed. For future reference, keep copies of all relevant documents, such as tenancy agreements, council tax bills, and communication records. Open and respectful communication is critical to finding solutions that benefit everyone involved.



Understanding council tax responsibilities is essential to responsible tenancy and effective property management in London. By clarifying expectations, establishing open communication, and approaching potential issues collaboratively, both parties can create a smooth and positive renting experience.

Should you have further questions or require specific guidance, don’t hesitate to consult your local council or seek professional advice.