Ain't Nobody Got Time for Tax: The Conclusion

Over the last couple of years, we have been researching and campaigning to help final-year students residing in Runnymede, who are hit with a council tax bill as the last day of term arrives in June. Students engaged brilliantly with this campaign, so we knew it was important to you.

Last year, we released a series of blogs to keep you up to date with everything we've been doing to try to help you solve this problem, and we've now got the conclusion!

What is council tax?

Council tax is collected by your local council to pay for services in your community, such as bin collection and social care. You can read more about it here. Full-time students are exempted from council tax, but they have to prove their student status. Your student status will end after the last day of your final academic year.

It’s your legal responsibility to contact your local council every time you move to let them know that you’re leaving and to give them your new address (even if it’s abroad). If you live in Runnymede, we recommend you do this by emailing counciltax@runnymede.gov.uk. Not doing this could lead to you owing council tax without being aware and ruin your credit, so set yourself a reminder!

What was the problem?

Most students don’t have any money or income straight after they finish university but have to start paying council tax in their private rented homes until the end of their tenancies, even if they’re not living there.

For some people, this meant paying two council tax bills, as they’d be faced with another bill in their new homes. For others, it meant an extra cost they hadn’t considered, and in worse case scenarios ended with county court judgements and bailiffs.

The initial proposal was to ask the council to consider final year students as ‘still students’ until graduation day, by which time most would have moved out of their student homes.

We pointed out that numerous councils around the country use their discretion to not bill students in the last couple of months of their student tenancies as they acknowledge that most students move out at the end of term. 

Runnymede Council were not willing to budge despite hundreds of signatures obtained by us.

The Silver Lining

The problem remained, so we got our heads into council tax legislation and looked for a different solution…we found a few! We are now equipped with some tips for people who are worried that they won’t be able to afford their council tax bill. If you’re interested in the details, you can read on, but if you prefer, you can come along to one of our housing drop-ins every Tuesday during term-time from 1-4pm at the Advice Centre. We can then give you personalised advice for your particular situation.

If you won’t be living in your student property after June

We can help you to negotiate an earlier release from your tenancy, which will absolve you of your council tax responsibilities for that property.

If you’re staying, but can't afford the amount

Most Home and EU students will be eligible for benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support, etc. The Advice Centre can give you information about this and help you plan ahead of time. International students' visa requirements mean they should have sufficient funds to cover their council tax bill, however, the Advice Centre has some useful tips that can help them too, like negotiating a longer payment period with the council.

Our final tip

Council tax can be manageable if you plan your finances, so if you’re worried about it, get in touch with the Advice Centre and we can give you personalised advice for your individual situation.