Council tax liability for absconding tenant

by Readers Question

13:04 PM, 13th September 2013
About 5 years ago

Council tax liability for absconding tenant

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Council tax liability for absconding tenant

My local council where I rent out my properties has since April been charging council tax for empty properties as soon as their empty. I have a case where in April [we think] a tenant who was on a periodic TA left. We were not sure that he left and only realised when no rent was forthcoming that he may have gone..Very carefully after nearly 4 weeks of attempting to contact him we took a chance and took possession [END OF June].We waited a few more weeks keeping all his possessions [mainly rubbish and some clothes] in the house. After that we stored his stuff redecorated the house and put it back on the market. A tenant finally moved in last week.

My question is who is responsible for the Council Tax? Will they chase me?or because there was no formal ending of the contract is the tenant liable?I have many cases like this in the past. Council tax liability for absconding tenant

Thanks

PJ



Comments

Mark Alexander

13:10 PM, 13th September 2013
About 5 years ago

HIi PJ

I hope you took the commercial decision to assume possession without obtaining a court order in full awareness of all risks of doing so. Presumably you are aware of the risk of your tenant re-appeareing having been in prison or on a very long holiday, very apologetic about his rent arrears but asking why there is somebody living in his flat? It happens, and landlords are sued for horrendous amounts of compensation for illegal evictions. Just saying, just in case you were not aware.

With regards to your specific question regarding Council Tax, please see this thread >>> http://www.property118.com/council-tax-exemption/41856/
.

Vanessa Warwick

13:39 PM, 13th September 2013
About 5 years ago

I have always found that the local councils are very helpful when dealing with tenants and unpaid council tax bills.

Rather than this coming back to bite you on the proverbial, why not email them and ask for their advice? You can also notify them of the new tenant's details and move-in date.

You may have some liability for an empty property and I am sure Mark's link will help bring clarity to that.

Yvette Newbury

14:42 PM, 13th September 2013
About 5 years ago

I would certainly contact the council giving details of the new tenant and stating that the liability for the previous tenant ended the day of the new tenancy commencing (or day before may be clearer). That is clearly the case. Your absconding tenant should have notified the council they were leaving if they did not want to be liable for it. I also do the same for all utilities- the previous tenant is liable until the meter reading taken when the new tenant took occupation.

Romain Garcin

15:00 PM, 13th September 2013
About 5 years ago

Strictly speaking the previous tenant's liability for council tax ended when his tenancy ended.
Assuming he did indeed want to surrender the tenancy, it ended by operation of law when you accepted that offer and took possession at the end of June.
From then on you were liable until the new tenant moved in.

paul johnson

15:56 PM, 13th September 2013
About 5 years ago

Hi Romain

I always thought that a tenant was legally liable for the duration of the AST for all rent,utillities and council tax unless he was releived of that responsibility by mutual agreement or another tenant took over responsibilities[he can obviously cancel utillities]

However I may do what Yvette suggests and just inform the council of my new tenant and tell them when i think the liabillity of the old tenant ended, ie the day before the new tenanr moved in. Then i'll take it from there.

But there are a few snags with Yvette's suggestion that does not apply to this specific case but which may apply in the future,for example: What if the tenant just moved out without telling me but did inform the council by claiming HB in another part of the borough and it tooks 3-4 months before i gained entry[actual case] who pays then?

pj

Yvette Newbury

16:07 PM, 13th September 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by " " at "13/09/2013 - 15:56":

Council Tax is separate to HB. A tenant cannot simply imply they are no longer liable to CT just because they claim HB elsewhere. Their AST confirms what they have signed up for, so as long as they are liable for CT in the first place at your property that will remain. It is their responsibility to inform the CT dept that they have moved on, but even if they do that, they remain liable under the terms of their AST agreement with you so you would just refute the change with the council as you were not given the proper notice.

In the past, tenants of mine have changed the CT into my name - or the Council have done it for no apparent reason and once I have got wind of it, I have just changed it back again and have provided evidence by a copy of the AST agreement and that has settled the matter, whether or not the tenant is still actually living there.

paul johnson

16:29 PM, 13th September 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Yvette Newbury " at "13/09/2013 - 16:07":

Hi Yvette

I really hope your right because i work at the lower end of the market and i have this type of scenario happening all the time. But there is still a nagging doubt, will what you say apply on a periodic tenancy? and what if the tenant claims that he informed me?

Anyway i'll keep you posted because i've just informed the council about the new tenant and when the liability of the old tenant ended ie; the day before. Lets see what happens!!!!

Romain Garcin

16:37 PM, 13th September 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by " " at "13/09/2013 - 15:56":

Hi pj,

Yes the tenant is liable for council tax during the duration of the tenancy (except is property is HMO for council tax purposes but that's OT here), as well as rent, etc.

So the key is to determine when the tenancy ended. You said that your tenant apparently left and that you then took possession of the property end of June: That's called a surrender by operation of law, ie. as a result of the actions of both parties. Both you and your tenants considered the tenancy ended by your actions, which showed an implied agreement (well that's the assumption re. your tenant. see Mark's comment).
So your old tenant's liability for council tax, rent, etc. ended at that point.

Of course here you may be saved by the fact that your old tenant may not be able to prove when you took possession. Or he may not even be aware of what I explained above.

Bottom line is that you cannot have your cake and eat it: Either there is a tenancy and you must act accordingly, or there is not and you can redecorate, etc. as you please. But not both.

paul johnson

16:54 PM, 13th September 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Romain " at "13/09/2013 - 16:37":

Hi Romain

So to put it in a nutshell.As soon as i take possesion i'm liable even if the AST is still running.The council will regard me as liable. However if the tenant leaves and i am unable to take possesion[say for 6 months its easily possible] then i'm not liable for CT.

pj

BTW many thanks for all replies

Yvette Newbury

17:08 PM, 13th September 2013
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by " " at "13/09/2013 - 16:54":

I agree completely with your summary above to Romain As regards possession, usually this would be after the court date. So for example in my one and only court case once the court had granted possession in August I then informed the Council that the tax should be in my name. In fact the tenant had left in the February and told the Council that to avoid any further council tax. If she had given me back the keys then she would not have been liable for the Feb- August period for all utilities and council tax for that period, but she chose not to so was liable until the court granted possession. If, again, she had still been living there at the court date for possession, then I would have deemed her still liable until she did actually leave the property.

Funny the above should come into the conversation as that was in 2008 and next month I receive the final attachment of earnings payment for that period of tenancy. Very pleased with that result.

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