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Do you have to pay council tax if you are in student halls in London?

London | 4 MIN READ

There are all sorts of types of student accommodation in London and there are different rules for different properties and different housemate combinations. This article has everything you need to know to understand Council Tax as a student living in London.

For more information on choosing, finding and renting student accommodation in London, check out our essential guide.

What is council tax?

Council Tax is calculated and collected by your council, and partially funds services in your local area. The amount depends on the location and what band the property is in. The way it’s spent is up to your local council authority, it’s usually used for things like schools, emptying the bins, repairing roads and maintaining street lighting.

The great news is that full-time students are amongst the people exempt from paying council tax! But as it’s the house (rather than the people) which gets taxed, if all the tenants in the property aren’t full-time students then it can get a little bit more complicated.

Read on to find out exactly how it works.

Are my student halls exempt from council tax?

The short (and brilliant) answer is yes!

The rules are that if everyone living in a property (under one address) are all full-time students, then that building is exempt from council tax. As halls of residence, especially on-campus ones owned by the university, tend to be full of students this means that you don’t need to worry about it! 

So, while you’re in student halls in London, you can spend your pennies on more exciting things and enjoy the local services like waste disposal and street lighting without having to pay for it yourselves.

As a student, should I pay council tax?

So, when living in university halls (usually in your first year) either on or off-campus, you won’t have to pay council tax, but things might change as you head off further afield in your second year and beyond.

What defines a ‘full-time student’

To qualify as a ‘full-time student’ when it comes to being exempt from council tax you, need to be enrolled on a course that:

  • Lasts at least one academic year, for at least 24 weeks of the calendar year.
  • Usually involves a minimum of 21 hours of study, tuition or work experience per term-time week.

You also qualify as council tax-exempt if you 

  • Are a trainee nurse or midwife
  • Are a sabbatical officer with the students union at the end of your studies
  • Are on the doctorate extension scheme
  • Are a postgraduate doctor or dentist
  • Have a disability

It’s important to bear in mind that this exemption only applies once your course has begun - so if you move into a property several months before you begin studying you may not be eligible for exemption straight off.

Do international students pay council tax?

As it’s not the people but the property that gets the council tax bill, it doesn’t matter if you're a domestic or international student, the same rules apply.

What types of accommodation must I pay Council Tax on?

If you’re renting a apartment from a provider like Dolphin Square, chances are your council tax will be included in your monthly rent and fees. You can talk to the provider’s support team if you have questions about being a full-time student.

If you’re in a shared house you might need to pay council tax, but that will depend on who else is living there. If all the tenants are full time students then you’re exempt - see below for more information on how to apply for exemption. If it’s a mix of students and non-students then your presence in the house will allow for a discount of up to 25%.

A council tax bill is based on there being at least 2 non-exempt adults living in a property. If it’s you and one non-exempt adult (so you and a housemate who isn’t in full time education and doesn’t have a disability) then they can get a discount.

Understanding council tax exemptions

What happens if I get a Council Tax bill through the post?

If you’re living in a house share with uni mates and the whole household is full-time students, you may still get a Council Tax bill posted to you. Don’t panic! You won’t necessarily have to pay it. Your local council probably isn't aware it’s an all-student household. It’s a simple enough process to apply for an exemption.

What documents will I need to apply for a Council Tax exemption as a student?

It depends on your local council, but chances are they will request proof that you’re a full-time student. You can request a certificate from your university or institute of study, which they have to provide (unless you finished the course over a year ago).

Who is liable to pay the Council Tax if the household is not entitled to a full exemption?

If your household includes non-students then you’ll get a council tax bill, though it should be partially reduced. Technically it’s the responsibility of the non-exempt adult(s) to pay this bill, though many households choose to split it between everyone.

Because the council tax deduction for a property can only be of up to 25% this could mean that if there are 5 students and one non-student living in a house, then the non-student alone will be landed with a bill for a 6 bed property which is still 75% of the original. So the decent thing is to discuss it as a house.

What happens if the household cannot afford to pay it?

Council tax arrears is a ‘priority debt’. So it’s really important that it gets paid on time. The non-exempt adult can contact your council straight away if they’re having trouble paying. The council may help by spreading the payments over 12 months instead of 10.

Not too taxing

So if you’re studying full time you aren’t responsible for paying any council tax and other than possibly applying for an exemption or potentially helping out your working housemate while you’re getting your degree - you don’t need to worry about council tax until you’ve graduated and the government deems you a full adult (...for tax purposes).

Why not browse some apartments, where the majority of your bills are included for maximum value and convenience. Our apartments are a brilliant transition away from student halls without dropping you deep into all the dull and difficult problems that can come with renting privately.