Liability for Council Tax – tenant left before contract end?

by Readers Question

14:23 PM, 9th October 2018
About A week ago

Liability for Council Tax – tenant left before contract end?

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Liability for Council Tax – tenant left before contract end?

Who is liable for Council Tax if the tenant leaves before the contract ends?

I’m looking for help and advice here from those in the know. I seem to remember a similar thread in the past somewhere on this forum. Any help or advice greatly appreciated.

Using a local Agent for all services, including management, a tenant moved in to one of my properties on the 6th October 2017 using a 6 month AST, although this eventually rolled over for an extra month or two. Unbeknown to me, the tenant had their own house anyway, which was rented out, and when their tenants moved out, they wanted to move out of my property, and so gave one months notice, which meant the tenancy ended on the 5th July 2018.

However, the tenant took back possession of her own house on the 1st July, and used the time until the end of the 5th July to move things out, and clean my property. The Agent came round on the 5th to inspect the property, and take back the keys, which was duly performed without problems, and the new tenant moved in the next day, the 6th, without there having been a void.

it seems that in order to try and reduce her bills, the ex tenant had told Telford & Wrekin Council, plus the utilities, that she had moved out on the 1st July. The Council have since been pursuing me for 4 days worth of Council Tax, £15.45, and despite being informed in writing, by both myself, and the Agent (including copies) of the truth, they will not accept the validity our information.

The Agent informs me that the Council’s policy is now to always accept the tenant’s word as being the truth, and today I have received a Final Reminder, stating that the matter will be taken to Court if I don’t pay! In a reply to the Agent, they say: This is because the liability for council tax is based on the hierarchy of liability as per Section 6 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992. They go on to say:

Guidance Notes:

If your tenant falls into the category of a statutory periodic tenancy and the tenant has already vacated, then the end date of the tenants council tax account will be the date they vacated. Based on the hierarchy of liability as per section 6 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, as Owner of a property you then become responsible for council tax whilst the property is unoccupied.

Statutory periodic tenancies can exist once the original term comes to an end but the tenancy continues. Where the tenant leaves, with or without notice, in a statutory periodic tenancy, the landlord or owner will become liable from the date that the tenant moves out. If the original tenancy was not renewed at the end of its period, for example the original tenancy was for a period of 6 months and when the 6 months expired a new agreement was not drawn up the tenancy then becomes a “statutory periodic tenancy”.

Then they let you know that they are watching your finances in case you don’t pay:
Telford & Wrekin Council Revenues Services are collecting your personal data for the purposes of collecting any Council Tax and/or Business Rates you are liable to pay and to meet our statutory requirements under the Local Government Finance Act 1992 and Articles 6(1)(c)&(e) and 9(2)(b) of the General Data Protection Regulation 2018 or equivalent United Kingdom legislation.

Martin



Comments

AA

14:36 PM, 9th October 2018
About A week ago

Unfair as it is - they have the upper hand It's about "occupation and habitation". You are in the right regarding utilities though. . I get the obligatory 1 day charge all the time when I get a back to back rental. That is tenant 1 leaves on the 1st and tenant 2 moves in on the 2nd. Always the 1 day charge. I stopped thinking about it a long time ago.

Martin S

16:52 PM, 9th October 2018
About A week ago

OK. I've done some research on the subject, and hope that if I copy some of the letter I've written to the Council, then things make sense. It all boils down to whether your have the word 'continued or continuing contractual periodic tenancy' in you agreement!

Until receiving your Council Tax Final Reminder yesterday, dated the 4th October, I thought this matter had been settled. The final line on the e-mail below to yourselves from the Agent says: 'Can you advise further'. As far as I'm aware this hasn't happened. I've attached a full copy of the AST, the relevant part of which was reproduced in the e-mail to you from the Agent below. The relevant wording for your consideration is: The tenancy will continue on as a contractual periodic tenancy.

This is relevant. If you care to look at: http://www.landlordsguild.com/how-to-ensure-your-tenant-is-liable-for-council-tax-at-the-end-of-term/
How To Ensure Your Tenant Is Liable For Council Tax At The ...

A new council tax periodic case dealing with an assured shorthold tenancy and it was in the High Court so has binding authority. http://www.landlordsguild.com

You will see that it says:
We now seem to have some fairly settled case law on who is liable where a property is unoccupied but the tenancy is not at an end. Crucially, it depends on whether the assured shorthold tenancy goes statutory or contractual periodic at the end of the fixed term.

In order to ensure the tenant remains liable during any periodic term, the following criteria must be met:
•the initial fixed (or minimum) term must be at least 6 months or more, and
•the tenancy agreement must contain a term that it continues upon expiry of the term.

If the tenancy agreement remains silent as to what happens at the end of the fixed term, a new statutory periodic tenancy by way of section 5 Housing Act 1988 will arise.

However, where the tenancy contains a provision that it will continue, then, the tenant will usually be liable until the tenancy has been properly ended.

So there you have it! Do others have experience?

blair

8:46 AM, 10th October 2018
About A week ago

My approach is when did they move out - that is vacate the property Vacate means free of all their processions and returned you the keys.

When did they return you the keys.??? That s really the date they vacated.

Martin S

9:28 AM, 10th October 2018
About A week ago

As I put above, she handed back the key to the Agent on the 5th, during the check out inspection with them, although claiming to the Council that she had moved out on the 1st. The Council takes the tenant's word, despite the overwhelming evidence from everybody else.

Munro

9:31 AM, 10th October 2018
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by blair at 10/10/2018 - 08:46
Hello Blair and sorry to OP Martin if this is a bit of an off post comment.
So is that the law, written in stone regards the hand over of keys? As I am currently at odds with a tenant who firstly asked for a daily rate, despite ending the 12 month tenancy early, then did not return the keys for a week or so after. Now disputes the 8 days change £280 I ve claimed from their deposit.

Janet Carnochan

10:54 AM, 10th October 2018
About A week ago

You are arguing over £15.45? Do you value your own time at all? It is probably costing move than this to chase. Personally if the tenant has left a clean property and no arrears I would just pay the £15.45 and move on. Less hassle in the long run.

reader

12:07 PM, 10th October 2018
About A week ago

Dear All
Having encountered a letting agent who would only spout to me what the local council told them and refused to deduct hundreds of pounds of Council Tax charged to me rather than the tenant I became cheesed off too.

Especially so when the AST read that they were rersponsible for all such bills up to the end of their tenancy date. So I further clarified the position by amending future ASTs to state a specific contractual liability to me for such payments that are charged to me by reason of the T's early vacation of the property. I just have to hope there are sufficient funds left within the registered deposit to legitimately claim it back from the deposit scheme etc.

Pete Lightowler

17:53 PM, 10th October 2018
About A week ago

Our TA states that after the fixed term the tenancy will continue from month to month.
The TA states the tenants are responsible for utilities and council tax.
Our Check Out Inventory Clerk will state the date the tenant moved out/returned keys.
Whenever a T has moved out before giving contractual 1 months notice they remain liable for rent and bills.
If council debate liability for CT, proving all the above has always worked for us.
Some councils give 1 months grace at no charge, but not all.

Robert Mellors

20:30 PM, 10th October 2018
About A week ago

Forget about the £15.45, but learn from this. Ensure that your AST contains wording to make it a "contractual periodic tenancy" after the fixed term, rather than a "statutory periodic tenancy". I use the wording "Commencing at 12.00noon on the 1st November 2018 to 12.00noon on the 1st May 2019 being an initial term of 6 months, whereafter it becomes a monthly periodic term at a rental of £XXX.XX monthly".
By using a form of words similar to this, it means that it will be a "contractual periodic tenancy" after the initial fixed term, and this then makes the tenant liable for all utilities and the Council Tax during their notice period even if they actually move out prior to this.

DC

21:05 PM, 10th October 2018
About A week ago

As per your letter to the Council in which you highlight the Court of Appeal case between Leeds City Council and Stephen Broadley and your tenancy agreements' inclusion of a contractual periodic tenancy and that the tenant is liable to pay Council Tax up until the point that their tenancy agreement or notice date came to an end, you are correct and Telford & Wrekin Council are wrong.

As for comments about this only being for a small amount of money and that you should just pay it I totally disagree with that advice and I personally quote the above case and stick to my guns every time!

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