Usually, landlords don’t have to worry about council tax. However, when it comes to HMO properties and vacant periods, things can start to get confusing.
It’s important to understand your landlord council tax responsibilities so as not to get caught out by any unexpected bills or legal issues. So, who pays council tax? What happens when your property is empty? And what about unpaid tenant debts?
From who is responsible to available discounts and exemptions, our council tax guide covers everything responsible landlords need to know.
Should I Be Paying Council Tax?
All residential properties in England and Wales are liable for council tax. If you fail to pay on time, there could be serious financial and legal consequences.
How does it work? The council tax system works according to a hierarchy of liability. The first on the list to pay is any adult over the age of 18 who is an occupant of the property. The landlord or property owner comes much further down this list.
How Is Council Tax Calculated?
Properties are assessed by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) and placed within bands A-H according to the location and type of housing. The banding is based on the amount the property could be sold for and the cost for each band varies by council.
Who Pays Council Tax: Tenant Or Landlord?
This depends on the sort of tenancy agreement you have in place. Usually, if you rent the entire property to one or several joint tenants, it is their responsibility to pay. (This includes single occupants, families and shared tenancies) In this case, the bills will be sent directly from the local council to your tenants, leaving you out of the equation.
However, if you rent to several tenants with individual tenancy agreements, you will become responsible for paying council tax. Therefore, if you rent out an HMO property, you will be liable to pay.
Do Landlords Pay Council Tax On Empty Properties?
Yes. During void periods, the landlord is responsible for paying council tax.
The size of the bill depends on your local council. You could be given a discount of up to 50% while the property remains unoccupied. However, this is becoming more unlikely as the number of unoccupied properties grow.
If your property is unfurnished, you may be exempt from council tax for up to 6 months.
Is A Landlord Liable For Unpaid Council Tax?
Not usually. As long as the tenancy agreement stipulated that council tax payments were the responsibility of the tenants, then landlords should be safe if tenants leave with unpaid debts.
If your property is vacant for any time, as the landlord, you will be responsible for paying tax during this period. However, you should not be responsible for repaying leftover bills that should have been paid by tenants while they were living in the property.
Without proof of a signed tenancy agreement, it will be harder to convince the council of your exemption if your tenant moves out early without notifying you.
See our blog on who is responsible for unpaid utility bills for more answers to common questions regarding bills.
Landlord Council Tax Exemption
Some properties and tenants are either exempt from paying council tax or are eligible for a discounted rate.
If you’re a landlord of an HMO property, make sure you check your tenant’s status to find out if you are eligible for any discounts. For example, if there is a mix of full-time students and one adult, you may receive a 25% discount.
Who Is Exempt From Council Tax?
There are certain groups of people who are exempt or eligible for a discounted council tax bill;
- Single occupants of a property receive a 25% discount
- Full time students are exempt
- Live in carers are exempt
- Tenants below the age of 18 are exempt
What Properties Are Exempt From Council Tax?
There are also a number of properties that are exempt from paying council tax;
- Unfurnished properties may be exempt for six months
- Recently repaired properties may be exempt for six months
- Properties occupied by full time students only
- Properties solely inhabited by tenants under the age of 18 receive a 50% discount
Landlord Council Tax Advice
To ensure you stay on top of your council tax responsibilities and avoid any unexpected bills, follow these simple tips;
- Always determine who is responsible for paying council tax in the tenancy agreement
- Keep a signed copy of this agreement on file
- Notify your local authority at each change of tenancy and give the names of new tenants
- For HMO properties where you are liable to pay council tax, ensure you factor this cost into the rent price
- Plan for any void periods in which you may have to pay council tax
- Check for any council tax discounts or exemptions you may be eligible for
- Try to minimise void periods to avoid paying council tax in between tenants
Property Inventory Management From No Letting Go
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Mould. The scourge of the rental property market. No matter how much effort you put into ventilating a property and keeping things dry, it somehow seems to find its way back again and again.
But whose responsibility is it to deal with mould in a rental property? And are tenants able to demand rent reductions for lingering mould?
We’re exploring this common problem to help landlords and tenants alike come to a happy solution. From prevention to deposit deductions, let’s look at landlords mould responsibility to get to the bottom of who is culpable and prevent disputes before they arise.
What is Damp and Mould?
Before we delve into who is responsible for dealing with mould in rented properties, let’s look at the different types of mould and its causes.
Rising damp is the name given to the process of water rising up and into a building from the ground through bricks and mortar. All houses should have a layer of waterproof material called a ‘damp proof’ to prevent rising damp. However, when this fails, problems occur.
If this issue isn’t solved promptly, it can lead to mould forming that’s difficult to remove for good.
Penetrating damp is caused by leaks that allow water into the property, causing surface mould growth. These leaks could come from broken roof tiles, blocked guttering or faulty plumbing.
The main thing to remember about penetrating damp is that it comes from outside the property and is usually a structural issue.
Condensation happens when moisture in the air comes into contact with cold surfaces, leading to water droplets and mould growth. If a building is poorly insulated or the ventilation or heating system is faulty, then the condensation is considered a structural issue. However, condensation can also be caused by tenant’s lifestyle habits.
The Health Risks of Living with Mould
The Housing Health and Safety Rating (HHSR) dictates that damp is an essential repair as it can cause health issues for tenants.
Mould is a fungus which can trigger or exacerbate the following health problems;
- Difficulty breathing
- Allergic reactions
- Skin rashes
- Asthma attacks
Not only is mould detrimental to physical health, it can also have an impact on tenant’s sense of wellbeing. This is why it’s so important for landlords to deal with mould swiftly and efficiently.
Is Mould the Landlord’s Responsibility?
With regards to mould, when fingers are pointed, things can get complicated.
Legally, rising damp or penetrative damp caused by structural leakage is the landlord’s responsibility to put right. Under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, it is the landlord’s responsibility to resolve mould issues caused by structural faults.
However, when interior condensation is caused by the tenant, this shifts the responsibility.
Condensation can be caused by;
- Drying clothes indoors
- Showering and not opening the window
- Cooking without opening the window
- Not heating the property sufficiently
Determining whether mould in a property is due to the tenant’s lifestyle habits or the poor ventilation of the property can be tricky.
First Steps When Mould Is Spotted
If you’re a tenant whose spotted mould anywhere within your rental property, you need to alert your landlord straight away. Describe where the mould is and any damage to furniture or belongings. Once the problem has been reported, the landlord has to respond within 14 days.
For landlords, when a tenant reports mould in the property, arrange an inspection to determine the cause of the mould and, where necessary, ensure repairs are made.
Once a damp problem has been resolved, you may also need to repair any damaged plaster or flooring and redecorate affected areas.
If you don’t respond within the two-week timeframe the tenant could contact the local authority who could force the issue through. That’s why it’s vital to arrange an inspection and repairs as soon as possible.
Can I Withhold Rent for Mould?
If your landlord refuses to make repairs, withholding rent can be risky. Technically, tenants do not have the right to withhold rent and could be subject to repossession or even eviction.
However, tenants do have the right to make the repairs themselves and make up the cost in future rent. If you decide to go down this route, you need to be certain that the repairs needed are the responsibility of the landlord. Be sure to seek legal advice before making this stance and follow the correct procedures.
Can a Landlord Deduct Deposit for Mould?
If there is mould in a property at the end of a tenancy which was not there at the start, landlords have a right to deduct money from the deposit only if the mould was caused by the actions of the tenant.
The amount deducted is at the discretion of the landlord, and will take into consideration any repairs or redecoration needed above the level of fair wear and tear.
Is Mould Considered Normal Wear and Tear?
Whether mould is considered to be fair wear and tear depends on the cause. If there is evidence to show that the mould has been caused by the negligence of the tenants and advice and regular maintenance has been supplied by the landlord or letting agent, then compensation can be claimed.
Can I End My Tenancy Early Due to Mould?
If you’re a tenant who has found themselves in a mouldy property with an inefficient landlord, there are steps you can take.
If your tenancy agreement has a break clause, then you may be able to end the tenancy early. However, if not, contact your local authority who will perform an inspection to determine whether the landlord is culpable of negligence. If so, they will issue a notice to the landlord demanding repairs.
From a landlord’s perspective, if you attempt to evict your tenant without fixing a reported mould problem within six months of it being reported, this could invalidate a Section 21 notice.
Condensation and Mould: Advice for Tenants
If you’re a tenant living in a rental property, there are some simple ways to prevent mould;
- Dry clothes outside when possible or keep them in the bathroom with the doors closed and windows open
- Cover pans with lids when cooking to prevent excess steam escaping
- Close the kitchen and bathroom door when in use
- Use a bath mat to soak up excess water
- Turn on the extractor fan when cooking or bathing
- Leave a gap between furniture and external walls
- Air out cupboards and wardrobes regularly
- Turn on the heating regularly and try to keep the house a consistent temperature
Preventing Mould: Advice for Landlords
Minimising the chances of mould growing at the start of a tenancy agreement could save you money on maintenance in the long run.
Here are some ways to prevent mould in your property;
- Ensure the property is well ventilated
- Maintain gutters and roofs to prevent leaks
- Ensure all plumbing is in good working order
- Repair any rotten window frames
- Improve the insulation of the property
- Install extractor fans in the bathrooms
- Repair or replace faulty damp proof course
Avoid Disputes with a Comprehensive Property Inventory
In cases where it’s difficult to determine the responsibility for mould, a detailed property inventory could help.
Prevent disputes before they can occur by investing in a professional, unbiased inventory report. By providing detailed written and photographic evidence of the state of the property, this report helps landlords and tenants alike by proving responsibility and supporting claims.
At No Letting Go, our team of experienced inventory clerks are well versed in helping landlords and property professionals streamline their workload and comply with regulations.
Whether you’re a landlord looking to recover costs against mould damage, or a tenant leaving a rental property, browse our full list of property services to find out how we can help.
When starting out as a landlord, it can be difficult to keep track of all your legal obligations. We thought we’d offer a little helping hand. We’re shedding some light on landlord responsibilities and your health & safety obligations. Don’t cut corners here, it’s important to get this right.
As a landlord, you need to take gas safety seriously. Make sure all gas equipment is installed and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Every appliance also needs an annual gas safety check by a registered engineer. By law, you must get a Gas Safety Certificate every twelve months. You need to provide a copy of this to new and existing tenants within 28 days of the check.
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Any electrical system or appliance in your property must be safe to use. By law, you are responsible for the general electrical system as well as the safety of appliances you provide, e.g. cookers, kettles, toasters, washing machines etc. Ensure all appliances are tested by an electrician and display the PAT (portable appliance test) sticker clearly on the plug.
This is another crucially important area of responsibility for landlords. You must follow fire safety regulations. You must provide smoke alarms on each storey of your house, this can be either mains or battery operated.
You also have to provide a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. coal fire or wood stove). There is no legislation requiring you to fit a carbon monoxide alarm in a room with a gas burning appliance (e.g. boiler or gas fire). Despite this lack of regulation, many landlords and agents are choosing to supply CO alarms in these rooms for peace of mind.
An overlooked part of legislation is that all landlords must ensure the alarms are in working order on the start date of each new tenancy. This is the case even if a new tenant doesn’t move in till after that time. You must provide evidence that an alarm is in working condition from the start date, an ideal way of doing this is via a thorough inventory check-in procedure.
You must ensure tenants have access to adequate escape routes at all time, this includes preventing obstructions. If you supply a furnished property, you must ensure that all furniture is fire safe.
If you’re letting a large house in multiple occupation (HMO), you’re required to provide adequate alarms and fire extinguishers.
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The Responsibility of Repairs
This can be a sticky topic. As a landlord, you’re responsible for the majority of repairs. Here’s a list of repairs you must carry out:
- The property’s structure and exterior
- Basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary fittings (this includes pipes and drains)
- Heating and hot water
- Gas appliances, pipes, flues and ventilation
- Electrical wiring
- Common areas like staircases (this will usually be mentioned in the tenancy agreement)
The Housing Health and Safety Rating System
HHRS stands for the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. This is a risk-based evaluation which local authorities use to deem whether a property presents health and safety hazards. If your property is deemed unsafe, your local council can take action. This is something you seriously want to avoid.
How Does the HHRS Work?
Hazards are separated in categories depending on how serious they are. This system also considers the extra risk to the young and elderly.
Category 1 Hazards
Hazards which are the most dangerous and pose the most potential threat to health or safety are labelled as category 1. If your property displays any examples of a category 1 hazard, the local council is obliged to take action. Here are a few examples of category 1 hazards:
- Leaking roof
- Mould on the walls or ceilings
- Rats, pest or vermin infestations
- Broken steps at the top of a flight of stairs
- Exposed wiring or overloaded electrical sockets
- A dangerous or broken boiler
- Excessively cold bedrooms
- Poor security (as a result of lock problems or badly fitting doors, etc.)
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Sometimes it can be difficult to prove your property is in a safe condition before your tenants move in. By using No Letting Go’s inventory services, our full check-in service will be able to record exactly what condition your property is in. This not only removes the potential for deposit disputes but also assists with proving items like fire alarms meet regulations. Find out more about our inventory services for landlords here.