Find out what council tax is, if you are exempt and when you might need to pay.

Purpose of council tax

Council tax is a payment collected by local authorities (such as Brighton & Hove City Council) for services like the police and fire service.

The amount you pay is based on your property and the number of people living there.

Student exemption from council tax

Full-time students do not have to pay council tax.

If you live in University-managed accommodation as a full-time student, we take care of council tax for you. You don’t have to do anything.

If you’re living in private accommodation, and you’re studying full-time, you need to prove that you’re a full-time student and therefore exempt from paying council tax.

Defining a ‘full-time student’

For council tax purposes, you are considered full-time if your course:

  • lasts at least one academic year, and
  • requires attendance for at least 24 weeks per year, and
  • involves at least 21 hours of study, classes or work experience a week during term time.

If you’re a PhD student, email to find out if you qualify.

If you are studying full-time, as outlined above, with a husband or wife on a dependant visa, they can also apply for a council tax exemption if they are:

  • not a British citizen, and
  • unable to get a job or claim benefits because of their visa.

Important: Check your eligibility with your local council to ensure that you have the right exemptions in place.

Students on study abroad programmes

All Visiting and Exchange students studying at Sussex for the whole academic year can request a council tax exemption letter.

If you’re at Sussex for one semester only, you are exempt from council tax if you live in University-managed accommodation.

How to claim council tax exemption

If you live in Brighton and Hove (in the BN1, BN2, BN3 or BN41 postcodes) you can claim for council tax exemption on the Brighton & Hove City Council website.

If you live outside Brighton and Hove, you need to:

  1. find your local council
  2. check your local council’s website for details about council tax exemption and the evidence you need to provide
  3. request a council tax exemption letter from us to send to your council (do this after you are fully registered as a Sussex student)
  4. send your council tax exemption letter, and any other evidence, to your local council.

You should then get confirmation from your local council.

Students who must pay council tax

You will need to pay council tax if you are:

  • living in private accommodation before you register as a student for your full-time course
  • studying short courses, or multiple courses, at the Sussex Centre for Language Studies
  • studying a part-time course
  • resitting an assessment after your expected end date
  • waiting for the results of a Masters (usually in late September)
  • a PhD student not studying full-time – if you’re not sure, email

If a housemate is not a full-time student

If one person living in your property is not a full-time registered student, they will need to pay all of the council tax, but can receive a 25% discount on the bill if everyone else is a full-time student.

If two or more people living in your property are not full-time registered students, all non-students are responsible for paying the council tax.

Paying council tax outside of term time

You will need to pay council tax from the official start of your private tenancy until the day you actually move in (not just the day you receive your keys).

Example: If you notified the council you collected keys on 1 August, but did not move into the property until 1 September, you would pay council tax throughout August while the property was unoccupied.

When you’re no longer a student

Once your student registration ends, you will need to start paying council tax.

This applies even if you are waiting to graduate after completing your course or still living in privately-rented student accommodation.

Example: If your final exams were at the end of June but your tenancy ends on 1 September, you will need to pay council tax for July and August.

See more from Living in private sector housing