Council tax when moving house - what you need to do

Remember to add council tax to your to-do list when you move home

dog in a cardboard box
Council tax when moving house
(Image credit: getty images)

Council tax may be the last thing on your mind when you are packing boxes to move home. But it’s important to be in the know about your responsibility so you don’t end up not paying for something you should - or paying for something you shouldn’t.

How much council tax you pay in your new home depends on where you move to, and which council tax band the property is in. You may also be due a refund on the tax you paid in the property that you’re saying goodbye to. 

We explain everything you need to know.

Registering for council tax if I move house 

When you move house, you need to tell your council (if you’re moving within the local area), or the council for the new area that you are moving to. 

This way you’ll be registered correctly to pay the right amount of council tax.

If you’re not sure which council you should be contacting, put your postcode into the government search facility (opens in new tab) to find out.

Legally, you must tell the local authority that you are responsible for paying council tax within 21 days of moving to your new home. If you fail to do this, you could be hit with a fine of up to £70. A further penalty of £280 can be imposed if you fail to supply information that the council asks for. 

If you like to get things done quickly, check on the council’s website if there are any guidelines around how early you can register for council tax.

For example, Southwark (opens in new tab) says residents can contact them less than seven days before moving. It says: “If the move is more than seven days away, please tell us about it nearer the time, as we won't be able to update your account until then.”

Meanwhile, Lambeth (opens in new tab) says you can tell them about your new address if your upcoming move is less than two weeks away. 

Some local authorities like Rugby Borough Council (opens in new tab) have a backlog of council tax forms to process, so try and get your form in as early as possible.

Your local council’s website will have a “change of address” page where you can fill in your details, or you may need to download a form. Be ready to share information such as: 

  • Your moving date
  • Your new address
  • Your old address
  • Details of the new tenant, owner or landlord of your old address
  • Bank details if you want to set up a direct debit
  • Landlord or agent’s details if you're a tenant
  • Joint tenant details if you’re a joint tenant
  • Completion statement if you're the homeowner
  • Joint owner’s details if you’re a joint homeowner 
  • Full names of everyone aged 16 and over that lives with you 

When do I start paying council tax when I move house? 

You start paying council tax from the day that you move into your new address. If your new home is in the same local authority, your direct debit can continue at your new address. This way you can expect to pay at the same time of the month as you did at your old address.

If you don’t tell the council you have moved in and register for council tax, you will eventually receive a “new occupier” letter. The council will backdate any payments owed and you could end up with a hefty bill. It could also add a fine on top.

How do I cancel my council tax if I move house? 

To cancel your council tax, go to the “change of address” page or form on your local authority’s website. You’ll need to include forwarding addresses for every adult on the property that pays council tax.

If your new home is in the same local authority area, you can continue using the same direct debit for your new address. If your new home is in a different local authority area, you’ll need to set up a new payment method.

If you were renting the home that you are moving out of, you will no longer be responsible for the council tax there. 

However, if there is a crossover in the dates you rent your old home and your new home, you might have to pay council tax on those two properties for a short period.

If you own the home you are moving from and leaving it empty, you will still have to pay council tax (at a reduced rate) until someone moves in or you sell it. 

Can I get a refund for overpaid council tax at my old address?

If you've overpaid council tax for your old address and are moving within the same area, the council will usually use the credit to reduce what you owe for your new address. 

If you've overpaid council tax for your old address and are moving out of the area, your council will issue a refund when they close your account. Most councils issue automatic refunds, but you may need to fill in a form to request it. Councils generally aim to process council tax refunds within 10 working days, but it can take longer than this.

Even if you don’t think you’ve overpaid, it’s worth checking. Most people pay their annual council tax bill in 10 monthly instalments, so if you've paid up to April but move out earlier in the year, your council tax account will be in credit.

How much council tax will I need to pay? 

Council tax is based on the value of your home: the higher its value, the higher your “band”, and the more council tax you pay. It is also based on where in the UK you live, as local authorities set their own council tax rates.

In England, council tax bands are based on what a home might have sold for in April 1991, even if it was built recently:

  • Band A – Properties worth up to £40,000
  • Band B -  Over £40,000 and up to £52,000
  • Band C – Over £52,000 and up to £68,000
  • Band D – Over £68,000 and up to £88,000
  • Band E – Over £88,000 and up to £120,000
  • Band F – Over £120,000 and up to £160,000
  • Band G – Over £160,000 and up to £320,000
  • Band H – Over £320,000

If the property you’re moving into doesn’t have a council tax band for some reason, your local council will arrange for your property to be assessed. 

Katie is staff writer at The Money Edit. She was the former staff writer at The Times and The Sunday Times. Her experience includes writing about personal finance, culture, travel and interviews celebrities.  Her investigative work on financial abuse resulted in a number of mortgage prisoners being set free - and a nomination for the Best Personal Finance Story of the Year in the Headlinemoney awards 2021.