Council tax is due on the 1st of April each year, but payments are spread over the year to make it easier to pay. When you receive your bill it will tell you the date you are due to pay whether weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
This is the legal process we follow if you don't pay your council tax, including reminders and court proceedings.
If you are behind with your council tax payments we will post a reminder to you. If you arrange to pay the outstanding amount and keep up to date with your payments, we won’t take any further action. If you ignore the reminder, we will apply to court for a summons.
Please get in touch with us if you are having difficulty paying.
If you receive a court summons, this means that we have applied to the magistrates’ court for the legal power to take further action against you to recover unpaid council tax. At the hearing we will ask the court to grant us a Liability order. This will allow us to recover your council tax debt in a variety of ways.
What we can do after a court hearing
If you don’t pay in full, a Liability order gives us the power to:
- request information from you about your finances
- directly deduct money from your wages or benefits
- use enforcement agents to collect the debt
- apply to make you bankrupt
- place a charging order on your property so that when the property is sold you will have to pay that debt off first before any of the proceeds are given to you
- ask the court to send you to prison.
Liability order issued
Once a liability order has been issued, there are various options we can use to recover money that is owed.
Attachment of earnings and attachment of benefits orders
An “attachment” means that an order will be sent to your employer or to the Department for Work and Pensions to have money taken directly from your pay or benefits. We will not cancel these attachments once they are set up unless you can prove they are causing you severe financial difficulties.
If you are experiencing severe financial difficulties you complete a form to confirm your income and outgoings. You must include: bank statements, bills and mortgage statements if you have a mortgage.
You need to demonstrate that after you have paid your essential bills, the attachment(s) will mean that you do not have enough money left to live on. If we agree that the attachment(s) would cause you to have severe financial difficulties then we will make alternative arrangements.
We can send enforcement agents (formerly known as bailiffs) to your home to seize property to raise money towards paying your council tax debt and our recovery costs. We will only use them if you ignore all our attempts to contact you and there is no other way of collecting the money that is owed. At least 14 days before we send your council tax debt to an enforcement agency, we will send you a letter asking you to contact us or pay the bill in full.
Once your case is sent to the enforcement agents you will have to pay an initial fee of £75 per liability order. A further charge of at least £235 will be charged to you if the agent has to visit.
Fees charged by the enforcement agents are set by the government and are not negotiable.
|Stage ||Charge |
|Enforcement agent is instructed by us to collect the money you owe. This is charged prior to any visit by the enforcement agent. |
|Debt remains unpaid and enforcement agent visits you. |
This charge covers all visits that are made to you. It is not made each time an enforcement agent visits.
|£235, plus 7.5% of any outstanding debts more than £1,500 |
|Enforcement agent needs to sell your goods to recover debt. ||£110, plus 7.5% of any outstanding debts more than £1,500 |
In most cases we will not become involved in payment negotiations and you must contact the enforcement agents directly. At this stage, you have no right to insist on a payment arrangement but an enforcement agency may agree to one in exceptional circumstances.
The agents we employ hold a court certificate and are trained to behave in a professional manner. They must always carry their identity card when working.
If you owe at least £1,000 for council tax and own your own home, we can ask the court for a charging order. Having a charging order on your property means that when it is sold you will need to pay your council tax debt and any legal costs before any of the proceeds from the sale are given to you.
If you owe council tax of £5,000 or more, we may decide to take bankruptcy action against you. If we do, we will write to you first with details of your debt and explain how bankruptcy will affect you.
The consequences of bankruptcy can be severe. The Insolvency Service has information and advice about being made bankrupt.
Committal to prison
We can apply to the court for you to appear before them if enforcement agents have not been able to collect your council tax debt and we have tried all other suitable actions to obtain payment. The court will ask you to explain why you should not be sent to prison for not paying your council tax.