About Council Tax

Council tax is set by us and is charged on all dwellings (a dwelling is a building that people live in)

Council tax bills are sent out each year for the 1 April. Bills are payable in 10 monthly instalments from April to January, although the number of instalments is reduced if the bill is sent out later in the year (for example, if you move house). Instalment payments are due on the 1st day of the month although other dates are available if you pay by direct debit.

Who has to pay council tax?

There is one council tax bill for each dwelling, whether it is a house, bungalow, flat, maisonette or mobile home, and whether it is owned or rented.

This means that owner-occupiers or resident tenants (including council tenants) usually have to pay the tax.

If the property is empty, or it is no-one’s main home, the owner is responsible for the bill.

  1. A resident freeholder (so for owner-occupied property the owner is liable)
  2. A resident leaseholder (this includes assured tenants under the Housing Act 1988)
  3. A resident statutory or secure tenant
  4. A resident licensee
  5. A resident
  6. The owner (this applies where the dwelling has no residents)

A 'resident' is a person of 18 years or over who lives in the dwelling as their only or main home.

'Owner' in relation to any dwelling means the person(s)who has a material interest in the whole or any part of the dwelling and at least part of the dwelling (or the part concerned) is not subject to an inferior material interest. ('Material interest' means a freehold interest or a leasehold interest, which was granted for a term of six months or more.)

Are the residents always liable?

In some special cases the owner, not the residents, has to pay the council tax. These are:

  • dwellings occupied by more than one household, where the residents pay rent separately for different parts of the dwelling and where the households perhaps share cooking or washing facilities, for example, some hostels, nurses’ homes or groups of bed-sits
  • residential care homes, nursing homes (such as hospices), mental nursing homes or certain types of hostel providing a high level of care
  • religious communities such as monasteries or convents
  • dwellings which are not the owner’s main home, but which are the main home of someone whom the owner employs in domestic service
  • vicarages and other dwellings where a minister of religion lives and works. (Where the owner-occupier is a Church of England minister of religion, the Church is responsible for the bill)
  • accommodations provided to asylum seekers under Section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

If you live in such a dwelling, where the owner is liable, you do not have to pay council tax. If your landlord is the liable person, they might be able to ask you to pay something towards the bill, depending on the terms of your agreement with them.

If you are liable to pay council tax in your capacity as an owner of a dwelling you may be entitled to a Discount or Exemption depending upon specific conditions.

Does only one person have to pay in each dwelling?

In some cases, more than one person is responsible for seeing that the bill is paid. People who are joint owners or joint tenants are jointly liable.

Generally married couples are jointly responsible for paying the bill if they live in the same dwelling. This also applies where a man and woman are living together in a domestic partnership, and couples in Civil Partnerships. 

Students and people who are severely mentally impaired will not be jointly liable.

Does each liable person get his or her own bill?

We may send the bill to just one of the liable people, to some of them, or to all of the liable people - this depends on the information which has been made available to us.

We may send out forms asking for information so that people can tell who should pay. If we do, please complete and return the form, or you could face a penalty of £50. We also use information provided by other councils, statutory bodies and relevant third parties (for example, a landlord, solicitor or the previous owner of a property.)

What if I disagree with the council’s decision on who is liable?

If you disagree with our decision about your liability, you should write to us, explaining what you object to and why, you can appeal

How do you determine what a main residence is?

A person is regarded as living in a property for council tax purposes if it is their sole or main residence.  Although this is straightforward if a person only has one home, when a person has more than one home we have to decide which is their main residence.

Main residence is not defined in law but over the last few years there have been a number of tribunal / court cases to decide what is and is not a main residence. 

Security of tenure / rights of occupation

  • at each residence, whether or not you are;
    • an owner
    • a tenant (and the nature of any tenancy)
    • a lodger
    • in accommodation provided with employment
  • your right to occupy a property
  • your residence is conditional (for example: residence in a country is dependant on holding a work permit)

Personal ties

  • at which residence you are registered with a doctor / dentist
  • where the majority of your possessions are kept
  • where you return to during periods of leave or at the end of employment
  • your long-term intentions
  • are you already regarded as mainly resident elsewhere for council tax purposes
  • where you are registered to vote
  • membership of clubs and other social activities 
  • where you receive post
  • which property you regard as your main residence
  • how you split your time between your residences

Family ties

  • at which residence your partner / dependants live
  • from which residence your children attend school
  • at which residence you spend time with your family   

Particular circumstances

  • merchant Seamen – cannot be resident in a ship
  • students – are always regarded as being mainly resident at their term time address
  • services personnel – will be regarded as mainly resident in accommodation provided privately rather than any service accommodation

Council tax relief for troops on operations

Armed Forces personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan who pay council tax for a property in the UK will receive financial support through a flat-rebate payment over a six month tour of just under £600. The rebate will be added to the tax-free operational allowance paid at the end of an operational tour in Afghanistan or Iraq.

What changes do I need to advise the Council of for Council Tax purposes?

  • If you are paying an unoccupied Council Tax of 100% on a property and you then move in, you must still advise the Council Tax office that you have occupied.
  • Any change of financial circumstances if you are in receipt of Council Tax Support.
  • Anything that affects an entitlement to a discount or exemption being claimed.

To advise us of any of these changes please contact Customer Services team on 01325 405555 without delay.

How can I appeal?

An appeal can be made to us if you believe:

  • you are not liable for the tax and we are sending bills to the wrong person
  • the dwelling should be exempt but no exemption has been granted
  • a discount should apply but has not been given
  • a reduction should be given for a disability but has not been awarded.

Appeals in respect of property bandings need to be made through the Valuation Office Agency [external link]. 

When you appeal to us, there are two stages to the appeals process:

Stage one  - representation

You must first write to us, detailing which decision you are unhappy with and why. 

We may ask for further information when considering the appeal, and have two months in which to consider the representation (but will normally do so a lot sooner).

If we:

  • reject the representation
  • act upon the representation but you are not happy with the outcome
  • do not respond within two months

You will be able to appeal to the Valuation Tribunal.

Stage two - Appeal to the Valuation Tribunal

An appeal to the Valuation Tribunal [external link] must be made in writing.

The Tribunal will only accept an appeal if it is made within either:

  • two months of the date you were notified of our decision
  • four months of the date you first wrote to the Council to make representation and the we have not responded
  • if we both agree, the case may be dealt with by way  of written representation, otherwise the Tribunal will make arrangements for a formal hearing. Both parties will attend to present their case and the hearing is normally quite informal.

Normally the Valuation Tribunals decision will be final although either party may appeal to the High Court against the decision on a point of law only.
  
During an appeal you must continue to pay your council tax.  If the tribunal decides in your favour we will revise the bill and payments accordingly.

Application forms

The full list of discount and exemption forms alongside an explanation of who is eligible is available on the discount and exemption page.

Tell us if you have moved home or have bought or sold a property in Darlington [online form, opens in new window]