Council tax - Respondent being non-British spouse of foreign student
Harrow Borough of London v Ayiku: Queen's Bench Division, Administrative Court (London) (Mr Justice Sales): 9 May 2012
Article 3 of the Council Tax (Exempt Dwellings) Order, SI 1992/558 provides, so far as material: 'A dwelling is an exempt dwelling for the purposes of section 4 of the act on a particular day if on that day it falls within one of the following classes... Class N: (1) A dwelling which is either - (a) occupied by one or more residents all of whom are relevant persons; (b) occupied only by one or more relevant persons as term time accommodation; (2) for the purposes of paragraph (1) - [(a) "relevant person" means - (i) a student; (ii) a student's spouse[, civil partner] or dependant being in [each] case a person who is not a British citizen and who is prevented, by the terms of his leave to enter or remain in the UK, from taking paid employment or from claiming benefits; or (iii) a person to whom Class C (school and college leavers) of regulation 3(1) of the Council Tax (Additional Provision for Discount Disregards) Regulations 1992 applies;]...'
The respondent was the wife of a full time foreign student residing in the UK. Neither the respondent nor her husband were British nationals or nationals of countries in the European Union or the European Economic Area. The respondent's husband had leave to enter and remain in the UK as a student. The respondent had leave to enter and remain in the UK as the spouse of a foreign student. She was prevented as a condition of her leave to remain from claiming benefits but not from obtaining paid employment. The instant case was an appeal from a decision of the Valuation Tribunal for England (the tribunal) concerning the liability of the respondent to pay council tax.
The principal issue which fell to be determined was, given the exemption with respect to liability to pay council tax for dwellings which were occupied solely by students, whether a similar exemption covered a property occupied by students and the respondent as a non-British spouse of a student. Consideration was given to article 3 of the Council Tax (Exempt Dwellings) Order 1992, SI 1992/558 (the Order). The appellant contended that the natural and obvious reading of class N as set out in article 3 of the Order was that two conditions had to be fulfilled before a student's spouse could be treated as a 'relevant person' and hence as exempt from liability to pay council tax: they had to be prevented by the terms of their leave to enter or remain in the UK both from taking paid employment and from claiming benefits. The appeal would be dismissed.
It was sufficient for the non-British spouse of a student to satisfy one or other of the two conditions, namely, being prevented from taking paid employment or being prevented from claiming benefits, in order to qualify as a 'relevant person' for the purposes of Class N so as to be exempt in relation to liability to pay council tax. The word 'or' had a disjunctive meaning (see  of the judgment). On a straightforward reading of class N, the more natural interpretation was that the word 'or' bore the usual disjunctive meaning that it had in common parlance. That was reinforced by a number of contextual factors and aspects of the scheme of the council tax regime (see  of the judgment).
In the instant case, the respondent, as the non-British spouse of a student residing in a relevant dwelling in the UK, who was prevented by the terms of her leave to enter from claiming benefits, but was not prevented by those terms from taking paid employment, was exempt from having to pay council tax by virtue of the operation of Class N in the Order (see  of the judgment). R v City of London Corp, ex p the Master, Governors and Commonality of the Mystery of the Barbers of London  95 LGR 459 considered; Ingram v IRC  4 All ER 395 considered.
Richard Glover QC and Sarah Sackman (instructed by Fladgate LLP) for the appellant; The respondent appeared in person.