Who has to pay rates?
Most home owners and tenants in Northern Ireland have to pay rates. Failure to pay rates can lead to fines or imprisonment, or even the loss of your home.
It's usually the person living in the property, not the owner, who has to pay rates. If you rent your home from a private landlord or agency you need to be very clear on who is legally responsible for paying rates.
I own my home
You will usually have to pay rates if you own a home in Northern Ireland. Your rate bill is calculated by Land & Property Services (LPS) and will be posted to you in March each year.
Your annual rates bill is based on the capital value of your property and the district you live in. Each council sets its own district rate each year. You can work out how much your rates for the year should be using LPS's calculator.
People on a low income can get housing benefit to help with rates. Some groups of people or types of property may be entitled to rate relief.
There are a few ways to pay your rates. If you don't pay you could be fined, sent to prison, made bankrupt or you could lose your home.
If you improve or extend your home you need to tell LPS. Building an extension, a garage or other improvements might increase your rates bill. You should tell LPS as soon as you've made an improvement. Otherwise, they could backdate any increase to the date that the improvements happened. Always tell Land & Property Services if you are moving home. Your responsibility to pay rates ends when you move out of a property.
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I rent from a private landlord
Private tenancies, tenancy agreements or statements of tenancy terms should specify who is responsible for paying the rates. It's essential that you know who is legally liable for paying rates on the property. If you're legally liable you should get the landlord's consent to make payments directly to Land & Property Services, to avoid any confusion.
In most cases, rates will have to be paid by the tenant. These might be covered in the rent you have agreed to pay or you might be expected to pay the rates directly to LPS. Ask your landlord to write down how s/he expects rates to be paid if you are responsible for paying them.
If the rates aren’t covered in your rent, the landlord must tell you this. Any additional amounts you will be required to pay towards the rates should be included in your statement of tenancy terms, as well as your rent book.
Tenants who get housing benefit to help with rent may also get housing benefit for rates. Tell the Housing Executive if you're responsible for paying rates and make sure your claim includes your rates.
If your landlord receives rate relief, the law says this discount must be passed on to you. You will be contacted by Land & Property Services if your landlord is getting discounted rates. It is up to you to agree a new level of payment to your landlord.
Sometimes the landlord might be legally responsible for paying rates. The landlord is responsible for rates if:
- the Net Annual Valuation (NAV)of the property is £750 or less (you'll need to contact LPS to get this figure);
- the capital value of the property is £55,000 or less;
- you pay your rent monthly, weekly or less often than quarterly –AND either the NAV is under £1,590 or the capital value is under £150,000;
- separate parts of the property are let out as apartments or lodgings; or
- the property is a house in multiple occupation.
If your tenancy agreement says you are responsible for rates, you should pay them even if your landlord is legally liable. However, in this case LPS can't insist you pay the rates if the landlord doesn't pass your money on.
You have to do what it says in your tenancy agreement. But the main laws of Northern Ireland take priority over any tenancy agreement. This means that when a landlord is legally liable LPS can only take action against the landlord if the rates aren't paid. This also means that if the tenant is liable and the landlord hasn't passed the money on LPS will take legal action against the tenant to get the money.
Rates in the private rented sector can be really complicated. If you're having problems, get help from an advice agency in your area.
I don't know where the owner is
Private tenants don’t always know where their landlord lives.
Land & Property Services can only force you to pay the rates if you are legally responsible for paying rates on the property.
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I live in social housing
If you rent from a housing association or the Housing Executive, you will generally have to pay rates. The rate amount is normally included in your weekly or monthly rent bill. You will be advised once a year of any changes in what you owe.
The amount of rent and rates you pay will depend on your entitlement to housing benefit. If your full rent is paid for you, your rates will also be paid. Your housing association or the Housing Executive District Office will decide if you have to pay rates yourself, or are entitled to rate relief.
For further information on payments of rates, contact Land & Property Services.
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