Council Tax, death and liability of a beneficiary

Quote
Council Tax worriesThe position of a property for council tax following death is often a problematic area. For the purposes of council tax the issue of who should be charged can be contentious and, where there is no-one resident in the property, then the local authority will often try to pursue someone other than estate of the deceased.

Where there is a surviving person who is a freeholder or leaseholder of the property, or there is someone who is resident in the property, then the situation is relatively straightforward and s6 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 will easily answer the question. Where there is no surviving freeholder/leaseholder, or resident, then the situation becomes more complicated.

Is a beneficiary liable ?

Most commonly the local authority will make a person liable for council tax where they are not the legal owner but holds only a beneficial interest in the property. This issue usually occurs where probate has not been granted but the local authority automatically assume that the ownership of the property has been transferred.

A recent Valuation Tribunal case (March 2019) considered the situation where a Local Authority argued a party was liable under s6 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 by virtue of being a beneficiary of the property under a will. The panel, having taken consideration of the wording of s6, determined that a beneficial interest was not a legal interest for the purposes of the legislation and the party in question did not hold a relevant legal interest until probate was granted. This outcome of this case followed a similar 2018 decision by the Valuation Tribunal President in a case where there was not will.

Quote

Good to know - it can be difficult when speaking with councils about deaths and council tax.