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council tax

When owning your own home, there are many financial responsibilities to consider as well as your mortgage repayments. If you do not keep up with your monthly repayments you could be at risk of losing your home, however by choosing to sell your home quickly you can avoid the negative consequences of repossession. It may seem fairly straightforward initially, as you calculate how much you can afford to borrow to purchase your home, but many people fail to take into account other expenses and financial obligations such as utilities, energy bills, property maintenance and council tax. Many of these bills are unavoidable and difficult to reduce without changing providers or making changes to cut your bills. Council tax however is usually much more fixed and difficult to reduce, although there are many exemptions and discounts that you may be entitled to which many people go years without knowing. By finding out what you may be entitled to you could save hundreds of pounds off your bill each year.

Council tax is normally calculated based on your properties value in 1991, where it is then put into what is known as a banding. These bandings run from A to H with A being the cheapest for properties worth up to £40,000 and H being the most expensive for properties worth over £320,000, however this is subject to change with inflation etc. Properties in Scotland have slightly different banding values but the principle remains the same.

The full council tax bill for your property is liable if there are two or more ‘liable adults’ residing in the property. If there is only one adult over 18 years old then a 25% discount applies with a 50% discount for those with no liable adult living within the property. Even if you are over 18, you are not considered a ‘liable adult’ if you are in full-time education or a student nurse or you have a severe mental disability. If you are a live-in care who looks after someone who isn’t your spouse or child you are also entitled to a discount.

Certain properties are also exempt from paying council tax. These include armed forces accommodation, annexes or parts of a property which are occupied by your children and homes solely occupied by full-time students. You are also entitled to a 12 month ‘break’ on your council tax if you are carrying out major structural repairs on your home, and 6 months if you have inherited a property where the owner has died.

If a property is left empty due to the owner being imprisoned, the home has been repossessed, is unfit for habitation, or you have been taken into hospital or care then you are exempt from council tax as long as the property continues to be empty.

If you are on a low income or are struggling to meet your council tax payments, you can apply for a reduction which depends on various factors such as the area you live, your personal circumstances, your household income and whether you have any children living with you. Most councils also operate a Disabled Band Reduction Scheme which means that you don’t pay more than you need to if you need extra rooms or space within the property due to a disability.

by Cormac Henderson

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