Authorities responsible for administration and collection of council tax are regularly required to deal with scenarios where the use of a property as a persons’ sole/main residence requires clarification. There is no set definition within council tax legislation as to what constitutes a sole/main residence and therefore determination is made based on case law where the High Court have made a judgement. We must consider the following principles when determining which property is a persons’ sole or main residence for council tax purposes:
- Residence implies a degree of permanence
- Temporary presence does not make a person resident at a property
- Temporary absence does not deprive a person of residence
Where a billing authority makes a decision on determination of sole/main residency for council tax purposes, factors taken into consideration are:
- Intention to return to the property
- Time spent at the property, both in length and regularity of visit
- Family ties to the property
- Legal interest held in property
- The reliance by an individual on the property. E.g. storage of possessions, whether registered with doctors or where children may attend school.
- Where the person is on the electoral roll
For council tax purposes, where a property is furnished but is not deemed to be a persons’ sole/main residence, it is classified as a second home and liable to a 100% council tax charge.
Sole or main residency case law:
Bradford Metropolitan Borough Council v Anderton (1991)
Mr Anderton was a merchant seaman who spent 275 days away from his home due to his employment. The High Court ruled that the Bradford address was his home and that absence for the purpose of employment regardless of time spent away did not constitute as the marital home ceasing to be his sole/main residence.
Ward v Kingston upon Hull City Council (1993)
Mr Ward worked in Saudi Arabia and his wife resided in Hull in a house they owned. Whilst working overseas, he lived in accommodation provided by his employer. The High Court ruled that the Hull address is where he had greatest security of tenure and was therefore deemed to be his main residence.
Codner v Wiltshire Valuation Tribunal (1994)
Mr Codner was a practising barrister in London where he lived in a property he owned during the week and he spent weekends at his Wiltshire address with his wife and children. The High Court ruled that his main residence was the family home in Wiltshire on the basis that he security of tenure there. The fact that he lived in London was by choice rather than necessity.
Doncaster Borough Council v Stark (1997)
Mr Stark was a serving member in the RAF who was adjudged that his main residence was the family home in Doncaster and not the quarters where he was staying while on service.