How do I know who should pay Council Tax?

The landlord is responsible for council tax in certain circumstances, the tenant is liable in others. The situation with students depends on whether they are in full-time further education or not.


Landlords are liable for council tax if:

  • they live in the property with the tenants
  • the property is unoccupied or empty and isn’t anyone’s main home
  • the property is regarded as a house of multiple occupation (HMO) which means that each resident pays rent separately for their own room or part of the property, and shares communal areas such as kitchen and bathroom. Tenants in HMOs usually have individual tenancy agreements.

If a landlord is liable for council tax, their tenant can’t claim council tax benefit. However the tenant’s housing benefit is unaffected.


Read our paying Council Tax page for more information on when owners pay council tax.


Full-time students are disregarded when calculating council tax. This means that if your property is solely occupied by full-time students, you will receive a council tax bill showing a full exemption.

If there are non-students living with students, discounts apply, not exemptions. For example, one non-student incurs a 25% discount. The non-student will receive the council tax bill, unless the property is a house of multiple occupation, in which case the landlord is liable for council tax.

To claim either a discount or exemption we need to know the full names and moving in dates of your tenants. For an exemption we need to see the students’ current student certificates or, if they attend Portsmouth University, confirmation of their course and student registration number.

As long as the same students hold the tenancy agreement and continue to study the same course, the discounts and exemptions apply throughout the university holidays. If the students change or they leave their course, tell us straight away so we can review the bill.

We usually write to every student household in Portsmouth each year to confirm who the residents are and their student status. However, please do not wait for this review to tell us of any changes – we can only award discounts and exemptions if we receive the appropriate proof of student status and are kept informed of who has moved in and out.

Find out more about students and council tax.

How do landlords report tenancy changes for Council Tax purposes?

Am I liable for Council Tax if my property is unoccupied?

You are responsible for council tax payment for any period between tenancies.

There have been some changes to how empty properties are treated for council tax purposes. For more information visit Council Tax discounts and exemptions.

If you do not notify us when occupancy of your property changes, you may be liable for council tax.

Never miss an update - sign up to our landlord newsletter