Purpose of council tax.
Council tax is a payment collected by local authorities for services like police and fire service. The amount you pay is based on your property and number of people living there.
You will often find that full time students do not have to pay council tax. If you live in university managed accommodation as a full time student, they will normally take care of the council tax for you so you don’t have to do anything. If you are living in private accommodation, and you are studying full time, you will need to prove you are a full time student and therefore exempt from paying the council tax.
Defining what is a “full time student”.
For council tax purposes, you are considered full time if your course lasts for at least one academic year. It requires an attendance for at least 24 weeks per year and involves at least 21 hours of study, classes or work experience during the term time.
Students who are on study abroad programmes such as all visiting exchange students studying at Sussex for the academic year can request a council tax exemption letter. There are various ways you can do this but it is best to ask the university.
Council tax can be an absolute headache for students and the rules are complicated. Especially as everybody is living in different situations and in different properties. We have this small guide in respect of items you might want to consider and what you will need to do.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you deal with the situation. If you are a full time student you would have some good news as it is more than likely that you don’t have to pay for it.
Before you go off and start spending the money from your council tax fund, there are always exceptions to this. You might have to come up with money so even as a student you need to ensure exactly what it is and whether you have to pay for it.
WHAT IS COUNCIL TAX?
Council tax is a yearly charge paid by either 10 or 12 instalments throughout the year. Council tax charges are per household rather than per person. It’s calculated on the valuation of the property that you are living in. It is thus important that you understand what council tax band you are in.
The United Kingdom is divided into different value bands what the Government believe the value of that property should be. These are from A to H in England and Scotland and A to I in Wales. Your home council tax band will depend on your post code and how much the property is worth. It’s calculated on the valuation from 1991 for English properties. Although this may have been updated recently.
The council tax goes towards paying for local council facilities. Such as rubbish collection, street cleaning, local schools, road works etc.
Any household occupied by only by full time students will qualify for an exemption on council tax.
To qualify for an exemption as a full time student you must be on a course that lasts at least a year and requires over 21 weeks of study.
If you study for a qualification up to A Level and you are under 20, your course must be at least three months and involve at least 12 hours per week study. If you are in a shared house with full time students and non-students only the non-student tenants should need to pay.
It is therefore important that you understand that if there is a mixture of students and non-students you may be liable to some form of council tax. It is important that you speak to the local authority and understand what your liability is.
To qualify for council tax exemption you need to be studying full time. If you are a part time student then you will need to still pay this.
HOW DO I APPLY FOR COUNCIL TAX EXEMPTION?
Each council is different and they do things in a different way. Getting your exemption could take a few minutes, a few days or even a few weeks. It is something that you need to pursue. It is your responsibility not your letting agent, your landlord or even your mum and dad!
Some councils will be happy for you to ring up and give your name, student number and university course. They will then arrange the exemption electronically whilst you are on the line.
Other councils will ask for what’s known as a certificate of student status to prove that you are in full time education. You can pick one of these up from your University. Then post it to your council or give it to them online.
Brighton and Hove Council have a specific website that you have to use. You have to make an application for a student discount.
Before claiming a discount all student households need to register for council tax. Then provide their student registration details.
If everyone living in your property is a full time student none of you have to pay council tax during the course dates. You will still have to pay council tax outside of these dates. Your council will want to check your place of study. Every council is different but Brighton and Hove council this is their requirement.
If one person in the property is not a full time student, they will have to pay all the council tax for the property. They can still get a 25% student discount if everyone else is a full time student. If two or more people in the property are not full time students, they are responsible for paying the council tax.
In Brighton to get a discount you have to show that you follow the academic year. In some cases at least 24 weeks and have at least 21 hours study. If you are under 20 years old and doing A levels it must last at least 12 weeks and include 12 hours work.
If you are struggling to get through to Brighton Council there is a Government website that you can go onto with their contact details. Please see link below.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU NEED TO TAKE TIME OFF FROM YOUR COURSE?
You will find that sometimes as a full time student you may need to take some time out from your course. For example from an illness or a family commitment. If you suspend your course but remain registered because you intend to go back. Then you would still be regarded as a student for the purpose of council tax.
TIME OFF BETWEEN COURSES
If you have finished one course and you are waiting to start another, you may have to pay council tax.
ISSUES FOR POST GRADUATE STUDENTS
Some post graduate students have difficulty proving they are a student for council tax purposes. This is because some study tuition or work may not take place on the University or College campus. Or that they are in thesis “writing up” stage of their course.
You only need to be undertaking the course for the necessary period of time. You do not need to be physically attending University or college for that time. If this affects you, you may be able to challenge the local authority’s decision. You should get some advice from the student Union or the University advice centre.
The most important thing to understand is that it is your responsibility to ensure that the council tax is paid. Make sure that you know the situation and that you have dealt with it.
For more information on council tax exemptions click here.
What other bills would be required to pay for our accommodation?
You can often find that a lot of accommodation now includes what is known as all inclusive bills. You will need to be careful as you need to understand the definition of this. Is there a limit to how much you can use the electricity or gas during the year and if so what are these. There are various standards outlined by consumer groups as well as Offgem who will be able to inform you of this.
What are the other types of bills we will be liable for?
You will be liable for;
Obviously, it seems a simple answer but you have to pay for your electricity in your property and it is so important that you make sure before the day you move in that you have a provider that can help you to do this. There are a substantial amount of electricity providers through the whole country and you should make some enquiries as to what is the cheapest. It is important you understand what your liabilities are. There are various ways to save electricity during the day and we have an article on this here. Such as not leaving computers on etc but you should always take monthly meter readings and give these to your provider so you can get accurate bills.
Not all properties have gas within them. You may find that your heating is provided with gas but now a days it can also be done by way of electricity. It is important you understand that when it comes to gas sometimes rather than having a burst of gas for a set period of time at a very hot temperature it can often be cheaper to have it on low during the winter months consistently. We understand it is an expensive payment for students so again make sure you do monthly meter readings.
You will need to pay for your water and sewage. These used to be via various different regional companies but you can now pick whoever you wish to deal with your water and waste. There are two ways this can be done. Either by way of a meter where you give a meter reading on a monthly basis and they let you know what you water usage is. Alternatively they do it on a rateable value basis.
If you are watching BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three and BBC Four you will need a tv license. People often forget about this and it can cause a hefty fine if you don’t make payment.
You may not have thought that you need contents insurance but what if your house gets burgled. Or if you loose your computer and everything on it would you be able to purchase a new one almost immediately? It is something you seriously need to consider.
The most important thing is to understand you are responsible for your bills in respect of the property and there is no-one else that will deal with it for you. You need to take responsibility immediately for the utilities that are being provided.
Don’t know where to find our utilities?
Harringtons do not hold details of your properties current utility provider. However you can easily find these details online.
Find your electricity provider by using the below link, you will need your property address including the postcode which can be found in your tenancy agreement.
Find your gas provider by using the below link. You will need the postcode for the property which can be found in your tenancy agreement.