What can happen if I don't pay my Council Tax?

Council Tax collection and enforcement

The Council has a duty to collect council tax and will take action to ensure payment is made on time.

If you have difficulty paying your bill please contact us immediately to discuss an acceptable arrangement to pay.

At the start of each financial year, within 28 days of the Council setting the Council Tax, we will send a bill to everybody who is shown on the Council Tax records as being responsible for payment.

We will send you a bill which shows the total amount due after deductions for:

  • Disabled Person's Relief 
  • Discounts 
  • Council Tax Reduction (Benefit)

We will change the Council Tax records where a change in liability occurs and issue an amended bill to you, normally within 20 days of receiving the relevant information.

The bill only includes the amount payable for the current financial year. Any amounts outstanding from previous years remain payable as previously notified.

What happens if I don’t pay?

You have a legal duty to pay your account on time. If you don’t pay on time we can take action to enforce payment. The steps we take are shown below. It is in your interest if you are having difficulty paying to ensure that you are claiming all the discounts and reductions that are available.

Your bill remains payable even if you disagree with the amounts and are applying for discounts and reductions or if you are making an appeal. You should also contact us at the earliest opportunity for advice and assistance as to your options.

You should note that late payment can lead to actions which incur costs, if you contact the council and are able to make suitable arrangements which you then keep to, then this action can be avoided.

First Reminder Notice:

  • If you don’t pay your Council Tax bill on time, we will send you a First Reminder Notice. 
  • If you pay within seven days of the date of the notice you can continue to pay monthly as shown on your bill. 
  • If you don’t pay in seven days, we will allow another seven days for you to either pay the instalment or get in touch. 
  • If you don't get in touch the council can withdraw your right to pay by instalments and issue a summons for the remainder of the bill with additional court costs

Second Reminder Notice

  • If you have been sent a first reminder notice, brought your account up to date but then fall behind again, we will send a second reminder notice. 
  • If you pay within seven days of the date of the notice you will still be able to pay monthly. 
  • If you don’t pay in seven days, we will allow another seven days for you to either pay the instalment or get in touch. 
  • If you don't get in touch the council can withdraw your right to pay by instalments and issue a summons for the remainder of the bill with additional court costs. 
  • If after bringing your account up to date, following a second reminder, you fall behind again you will not be issued any more reminders, at that point you will lose the right to pay by instalments and the council will issue a summons for the remainder of the bill with additional court costs.

Final Notice

  • This is issued when the last payment date on your bill has passed and an amount remains unpaid or where your account has been finalised because you have moved out of the property or someone else is now being charged, but a charge still remains outstanding. The total balance must be paid in full in seven days. 
  • Failure to make payment as required by the Final Notice means that the council can issue a summons for the balance with additional court costs

Summons

  • Where failure to pay has resulted in the loss of your rights to pay by instalments a summons will be issued from the Magistrates’ Court. 
  • The summons will give you details of when the council will take this matter to court (there will be at least 14 days notice between the issue date of the summons and the court date) You will have £50 costs added to your account. 
  • To avoid having to attend court you must make payment in full (including the £50.00 costs) before the court hearing date, this means that the council will not ask the Magistrates for a Liability Order in your case. 
  • If you can not pay in full then you can pay as per the arrangement (including the costs) suggested by the council. However, we will still ask the Magistrates to grant a ‘Liability Order’ to secure the debt (explained below). 
  • Where you can not afford to make either payment in full or pay at the suggested arrangement level you must contact the council. 
  • Providing you keep to the agreed payment arrangement, no further enforcement action will be taken.

If you have difficulty in paying any instalment, please contact the Council before you fall into arrears. It may be possible to make a different arrangement for payment that you can afford. However, we would normally only be able to review your payment arrangement on one occasion prior to Court action.

The Liability Order

If a Liability Order is granted, we will take appropriate enforcement action as quickly as possible, unless you have made an arrangement for payment.

If you do not make an arrangement for payment, or fail to keep to an arrangement made, we will take action to enforce payment of the debt without further notice.

How can we enforce payment?

The main ways we can enforce payment of the debt are as follows:

  1. If you are working an Attachment of Earnings Order may be sent to your employer who will be required to make deductions from your wage/salary until the debt is cleared. 
  2. If you are claiming Income Support, Employment Support Allowance, Jobseeker's Allowance or Pension Credit a request may be sent to the Department for Works and Pensions for deductions to be made from your Benefit. 
  3. Instructing Enforcement Agents to take action to recover the debt. 
  4. Place a charge on your property and force sale based on that order to recover monies owed. 
  5. Bankruptcy/Liquidation proceedings. 
  6. Committal to prison.

What is an Enforcement Agent and what can they do to recover the debt?

Enforcement Agent is the new name for bailiffs.

Enforcement Agents will initially issue an enforcement notice. This will incur costs of £75.00 payable by you. We will send you the enforcement notice at least 14 days before an enforcement agent visit. We will include with this letter full details of the costs which can be incurred. If you arrange payment immediately after receiving this letter, you can avoid paying enforcement agent costs. If you do not comply with this process then after the 14 days the Enforcement Agent will visit your home and can seize goods to the value of the debt. This can normally incur costs of up to a further £345.00 but can exceed this in the case of large debts.

The enforcement agent will give you the opportunity to make a satisfactory arrangement for payment before considering removing your goods. If enforcement agents are instructed, you may incur a significant amount of costs relating to the visits made by the enforcement agent; levy on goods; hire of van; auctioneer's fee; etc.

Charging Orders

Where the Council has Liability Orders which exceed £1000.00 in relation to a property you own then we can apply for a Charging Order through the County Court. Once we have obtained the Charging Order if you still do not pay the charge and the costs, then we can use that order to take possession of your property and to sell it.

Bankruptcy and Liquidation

The council can take action to make an individual bankrupt or to liquidate a company if they owe more than £5,000.00. Any costs incurred by the council for making you bankrupt or by the administrator of your bankruptcy will be added to your debt and recovered from any monies or assets identified by the administrator.

Prison

If the enforcement agent is unable to recover the debt, and another way of enforcing payment is not appropriate, we will make an application to the Magistrates' Court for your commitment to prison. The commencement of Committal proceedings can result in additional costs in excess of £290.00 being incurred and the Magistrates can send you to prison for a period up to 3 months.

Read more about Council Tax arrears on the gov.uk website.