Sole or main residence

How to establish if a home is a sole or main residence

Whenever doubt is expressed about a person's sole or main residence, it is possible to paint a much clearer picture of the situation by asking a series of questions:

Property related questions

  • Do you own the property at...?
  • If yes, how long have you owned it?
  • If no, is it rented and how long is your lease/tenancy?
  • Do you own any other property?
  • Do you pay rent or any other charges for the accommodation you are using while you are away?
  • Is the accommodation provided by your employer whilst you are working away?
  • Is the property at ... your marital home and does your partner reside there throughout the year?

Personal details

  • Where do you consider to be your sole or main residence?
  • Why do you consider that property to be you sole or main residence?
  • Where are you registered for voting?
  • Where do you keep the majority of your possessions?
  • Are you leaving the property at ... to work or for a holiday?
  • Will you be absent from the property continuously for the period stated or will you return periodically?
  • Do you have any children of school age? If yes, where are they educated?
  • Are the household bills in your name?
  • If you have a bank account, where is the branch?

Employment related questions

  • Are you a citizen of the country where you are working?
  • Where are you registered for Income Tax?
  • Is your contract of employment for a limited period or indefinite?
  • How long have you been employed in this job?
  • When you are on leave from this job, do you return to the property at ... or do you go elsewhere?

Sole or main residence definitions

The majority of liability depends upon residence. However, if no one in the home is a resident, the owner may be liable.

A 'resident' is defined as "an individual who has attained the age of 18 years and has his sole or main residence in the dwelling."

The principle of sole or main residence was fundamental in determining liability for Community Charge (Poll Tax). The principle and decisions of the Courts in relation to Community Charge have been carried over into Council Tax law.

If a person only has one home, there is not difficulty in deciding their sole or main residence. However areas of dispute tend to develop from questions as to whether a dwelling is a person's:

a) sole residence - when they work and live away from their home for extended periods

b) main residence - when they have more than one dwelling and spend time living in each.

The particular significance in relation to council tax is that:

a) a person who works and lives away from their home base (e.g. works abroad and leaves the family at home) may seek to avoid liability or claim a discount for which there is no real entitlement

No specific legislation exists concerning the subject of sole or main residence, however several important High Court cases have helped establish guidelines for determining a person's sole or main home.


Last reviewed: 20 - 06 - 2013

Was this page helpful?YesNo