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Trying to avoid Council Tax liability by not being a tenant


In what might be described as an audacious, or perhaps foolhardy, appeal from the Valuation Tribunal, Mr Jackson sought to challenge his liability to pay Council Tax in Jackson v Cambridge City Council [2008] EWHC 2529 (Admin). Normally, this wouldn’t concern us here, but Mr Jackson’s grounds of appeal bring the case inside the wobbly boundaries of Nearly Legal.

Mr Jackson had taken a 6 month assured shorthold tenancy. He claimed he did not move in but promptly sub-let it to four other people, each with their own room, in breach of the tenancy agreement. He paid the rent to the managing agents for the next four years or so, but stated that he believed that his tenancy (and with it any Council tax liability) ended after 6 months. After about 4 years, one of the occupants took a tenancy of the property from the landlord.

When payment of Council Tax was demanded, Mr Jackson stated that he had never lived at the property and in any case his tenancy had expired after 6 months.

The Valuation Tribunal found that Mr Jackson had set up a HMO, and on the basis of the multiple occupancy, he was liable for the Council Tax. When his assured shorthold had expired, he became a statutory tenant, and remained liable for Council Tax.

Mr Jackson appealed on the grounds that:

1. the tribunal had made an error in law in finding that he remained as a statutory tenant after the AST.

2. In finding that the property was an HMO, the Tribunal had failed to properly consider whether the sub-tenants were joint  tenants, but rather considered that occupying separate bedrooms was enough to establish an HMO. This was not enough to establish multiple sub-let of part as required for an HMO under Council Tax (Liability for Owners) Regulations 1992 Regulation 2(b)(i).


1. While it was right that Mr Jackson could not be a statutory tenant at the end of the AST because he did not fufill the only or principle residence condition (s.5 Housing Act 1988), he certainly did continue as a tenant in common law – he paid the rent and did not represent to the managing agents or landlord that he was anything other than the tenant. He used the address for his taxi licence and to register cars, meaning that he had signed several statements of truth that he resided at the property. He held over at the end of his lease and paid rent. He was therefore a common law tenant and, as such, remained liable for Council Tax.

2. There was sufficient evidence that the Tribunal had considered the form of occupation of the sub-tenants. The only sub-tenant to give evidence had described himself as a lodger with his own room and shared common spaces. He denied that anyone has access to the others’ rooms. The Tribunal had not failed to appreciate the requirements of the law, or misdirected themselves, but came to a considered conclusion. Appeal dismissed, with costs against Mr Jackson

That takes chutzpah. To try to avoid Council tax on the basis of one’s own misrepresentation, breach of tenancy agreement and potentially criminal misrepresentation in various statement of truth involves some cheek. That this was only over a bill of £2500, even more so. The taxi drivers of Cambridge clearly have a cunning, but not particularly bright member in their ranks, one who now owes a further £5600 in costs (plus his own).

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.



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