Council tax for students
Your property is ‘exempt’ from council tax if it’s only occupied by full-time university or college students. Student halls of residence are automatically exempt.
If your property isn’t exempt, some people, including full-time students, are ‘disregarded’. This means the council tax is calculated as if you don’t live there. This might mean that whoever does have to pay the council tax can get a discount.
Check if you’re a full-time student
You’re a full-time student for council tax purposes if your course:
lasts at least 1 calendar or academic year for at least 24 weeks out of the year, and
normally involves at least 21 hours of study, tuition or work experience per week during term time.
The local council might ask for proof that you're a full-time student. You can ask for a certificate from your university or college which must provide it, unless more than a year has passed since your course finished.
You can read more about council tax discounts for students on GOV.UK.
How a council tax bill is calculated
A full council tax bill is based on at least 2 adults living in a property.
A discount is applied for people living on their own, and for those who live with people who don’t count as adults for council tax purposes, for example, full-time students.
If someone you share with isn't a full-time student
The property won’t be exempt from council tax and you’ll get a bill. However, whoever is liable to pay the council tax might qualify for a discount.
For example, if you share with an employed person or a part-time student, they will probably be liable for 75% of the council tax bill. There is a 25% discount because there is only 1 eligible adult in the property. As the full-time student, you’re disregarded when counting the number of eligible adults in the property for discount purposes.
If you share with 2 or more employed people who aren’t students, they’re likely to be liable for 100% of the council tax bill, unless 1 or both of them qualifies as a disregarded person for council tax discount purposes. In this situation, the local council can only pursue the non-students for payment of the council tax bill.
Special rules apply where you live only with your non-British spouse, partner or dependant. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice to speak to an adviser if you're in this situation.
If you live in an HMO
The owner of the property is liable to pay council tax if you live in a house in multiple occupation (HMO).
For council tax purposes, a property is likely to be an HMO if it’s occupied by:
- more than 1 household
- 1 or more tenants who each have their own tenancy agreement
If your home is exempt but you still get a council tax bill
If you receive a council tax bill but you don't think you should have, you can apply for an exemption.
You can apply for a council tax exemption on GOV.UK.
If you're taking time off from your course
As a full-time student, you might need to take some time out from your course, for example, because of an illness or family commitments.
If you suspend your course but remain registered because you intend to go back, you should still be regarded as a student for the purposes of council tax.
If you're between courses
If you've finished a course and you’re waiting to start another, you might have to pay council tax - for example, if you've finished an undergraduate degree and plan to start a postgraduate course in the next academic year.
You might be liable to pay council tax in these circumstances because you aren't within the formal period of either course.
If you’re a postgraduate student
You might have difficulty proving you’re a student for council tax purposes if your study, tuition or work doesn’t take place on the university or college campus or you’re in the thesis ‘writing up’ stage of your course.
However, you only need to be 'undertaking' a course for the necessary period of time and don’t need to be physically attending university or college for that time. If this affects you, you might be able to challenge the local council's decision and you should get advice from your students’ union or university’s advice centre.
Getting help to pay council tax
If you or someone you live with is liable to pay council tax, you might be able to get help.You can read read more about getting help to pay the council tax bill.