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Who has to pay council tax

People who live in a property as their main home have to pay the council tax for that property. We define you as a resident if you are 18 years old or over and live in a property as your main home.

If more than one person lives in a property, we use a system called the "hierarchy of liability" to work out who has to pay the council tax. The person nearest to the top of the hierarchy is the person who has to pay. Two people at the same point of the hierarchy have the same responsibility to pay. If no one lives in the property then the owner has to pay the council tax.

Hierarchy of liability

  • A resident who owns the freehold
  • A resident who owns the leasehold
  • A resident who is an assured tenant or is a statutory or secure tenant
  • A resident who is a licensee. This means that they are not a tenant but have permission to stay there
  • Any resident, for example, a squatter
  • An owner of the property who does not live there

There are some properties where the owner, rather than the residents, will be responsible for payment. The hierarchy does not apply to these properties. These properties are:

  • Houses in multiple occupation, that is where the residents do not form a single household and pay their rent separately for different parts of the property. The tenants will usually have separate tenancy agreements.
  • Residential care or nursing homes, and some types of hostels which provide care
  • Homes occupied by Religious communities
  • Homes which are occasionally occupied by the owner and whose domestic staff are also resident
  • Properties occupied by ministers of religion, as a residence from which the minister's duties of office are carried out
  • Properties provided to asylum seekers

Joint liability

Two or more people may have to pay the council tax for a property. The circumstances when this occurs are:

  • People at the same position in the hierarchy of liability.
  • Residents who are married to each other or live together as husband and wife or are civil partners or live together as civil partners.

Contact us

Local Taxation Section
London Borough of Merton
PO Box No 559

Account or billing enquiry: 020 8274 4904
Summons enquiry: 020 8274 4905 or 8545 3468
Fax: 020 8545 3960

We are no longer able to attend to personal visitors at the Civic Centre. You can email us anytime or telephone between 9am and 5pm.​