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A person is regarded as living in a property for Council Tax purposes if it is their sole or main residence. Although this is straightforward if a person only has one home, when a person has more than one home we have to decide which is their main residence.
Main residence is not defined in law, but over the years there have been a number of tribunal/court cases (see details below) to decide what is and is not a sole or main residence. The council will make a decision on which property is the sole or main residence; areas that will be taken into account are based upon judgements from these tribunal/court cases. Factors that are considered include the following (this is not an exhaustive list):
At each residence, whether or not you are:
CODNER v WILTSHIRE VALUATION AND COMMUNITY CHARGE TRIBUNAL (HIGH COURT 1994)
The High Court confirmed the principle that time was not the only factor to be considered in determining sole or main residence.
CITY OF BRADFORD METROPOLITAN BOROUGH COUNCIL v NEIL ANDERTON (HIGH COURT 1991)
A merchant seaman's sole or main residence was held to be his house in Bradford on the basis that: it was where his home was; it was his settled or usual abode which he left only when his occupation compelled him to do so for absences of long or short duration (he was away for up to 275 days); it was where his wife and family lived; and he had no security of tenure on his ship. A merchant ship plying the high seas cannot in law constitute a person's residence.
WARD v KINGSTON-UPON-HULL CITY COUNCIL (HIGH COURT 1993)
Mr Ward spent only six to nine weeks in the United Kingdom and his wife was considering joining him in Saudi Arabia.
The High Court held that Mr Ward had greater security of tenure at his dwelling in the United Kingdom, as opposed to that at his employment-related accommodation in Saudi Arabia, and that on this basis Mr Ward and his wife had their sole or main residence in the United Kingdom.
COX v LONDON SOUTH WEST VALUATION TRIBUNAL (HIGH COURT 1994)
The taxpayer spent time at two dwellings. The High Court concluded that the sole or main residence was the home where the wife and family resided.
DONCASTER BOROUGH COUNCIL v STARK AND STARK (HIGH COURT 1998)
It was held that where a member of the Armed Forces was obliged to live in service accommodation elsewhere, his/her main place of residence remained their family home. The decision was based on Corporal Stark's security of tenure, the time spent there when not on duty, and the fact that he would return there should he no longer be required by the Forces.
R (ON THE APPLICATION OF WILLIAMS) v HORSHAM DISTRICT COUNCIL (HIGH COURT 2003) (COURT OF APPEAL 2004)
Mr Williams resided in college accommodation with his wife. He also owned another property nearby, but neither he nor his wife actually stayed there during the period of the four-and-a-half years that was in dispute. The Billing Authority deemed that the property he owned was his main residence because he had security of tenure and there was an intention to reside there at some future date. The Valuation Tribunal decided in favour of the Billing Authority. Mr Williams successfully appealed to the High Court. The High Court held that the Tribunal had erred by placing too much emphasis on the fact that Mr Williams had security of tenure at the property he owned and that he intended to reside there at some future date and had given insufficient regard to other factors. The Billing Authority ultimately appealed to the Court of Appeal, which upheld the High Court's decision.
The Court of Appeal held that a reasonable onlooker, when looking at the facts, would view the college accommodation as Mr Williams' main residence. One important factor to note was that neither he nor his wife had spent any time at the property they owned, despite its close proximity to the college.
For further information, please contact Revenues: