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What is council tax and who has to pay?

Find out who's responsible for paying the council tax bill.
Haven't had your council tax bill?

If you've got a MyLewisham account and have registered to view your council tax account online, you won't get a paper copy of your annual bill – it'll be available to view online instead.

If you don't have MyLewisham account, you'll get a paper copy in the post as normal.

Council tax is a tax on domestic dwellings by local authorities throughout the UK. It's based on the estimated value of your dwelling which is referred to as your council tax band. Council tax is goes towards services provided by the Council.

If you occupy a property as your main home, you are responsible for paying council tax. If you’re under 18, you don't need to pay council tax

Who's liable to pay council tax

In general, the person who is highest in the following list is liable to pay council tax on a property: 

  • resident freeholder, such as an owner occupier 
  • resident leaseholder, such as an owner occupier who pays a ground rent
  • resident statutory or secure tenant, such as a council or private tenant
  • resident licensee, such as the landlord of a pub who lives on the premises 
  • other resident
  • non-resident owner

Joint liability 

If there's more than one person fitting the description of the person liable, each person will be liable for the whole amount – not just a part of it. This is called joint and several liability. 

For example, if two friends or a couple rent a property, they might decide to each pay half the council tax. But if one of them fails to pay, the other person is liable to pay the full amount. 

The bill will show all the names of the people liable to pay council tax, although only one bill may be sent. 

Empty homes  

Some homes, such as those of people who are in prison or in hospital, may be eligible for a council tax discount. Visit our empty homes page for more information.

Homes which are left empty and substantially unfurnished for a period of two years or more will attract a long-term empty premium of 100%. 

If a property has already been empty for 5 years or more you will pay a 200% premium. 

If a property has already been empty for 10 years or more you will pay a 300% premium. 

The empty homes premium is based upon the property, and not property ownership. 

Occupied annexes 

Any self contained annexe occupied by a relative (regardless of age or disability) will qualify for a 50% discount. If the relative is dependant, severely disabled or aged 65 or over, the annexe will continue to be exempt. 

When the owner should pay the council tax 

The owner, rather than the occupier, is liable to pay the council tax in the following special cases: 

  • houses in multiple occupation, for example, groups of bedsits which share washing and cooking facilities. From 1 December 2023 all landlords will be liable for council tax of HMOs.
  • care and nursing homes together with some hostels
  • properties occupied only by religious communities and some vicarages
  • some second homes
  • properties occupied by asylum seekers

Depending on your circumstances and the people who live with you, you might be entitled to a council tax reduction or exemption.

We suggest that you seek your own independent legal advice regarding your liability to pay Council Tax. Please note that the Council will take recovery action against anyone who fails to pay Council Tax when due. While we do our best to answer all relevant enquiries about council tax, we reserve the right to refuse to respond to enquiries that focus on hypothetical arguments that have no basis in statute which use our resources at the expense of other taxpayers.

Useful documents

Download these documents to find out more about Council Tax and how we collect it.