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Council tax missed payments

If you have missed one or more council tax payments, this details how we can collect the money from you.

What happens if I don't pay my council tax bill?

If you are having difficulties making payments please contact us as soon as possible to let us know.

If you haven't spoken to us about a problem paying your bill and you do not pay your council tax bill on time, or miss an instalment, we will take action to collect the money from you. 

More information about reminders, final notices and liability orders.

First reminder

If you don't pay an instalment of your council tax by the date it is due, we will send you a reminder showing the amount you need to pay. If you make your payment within seven days, you can continue paying by instalments.

If you do not pay the amount shown on the reminder within seven days and you do not contact us, we will wait another seven days before we ask the magistrates' court to send you a summons to attend a court hearing.

If you want to stop the case going to the magistrates’ court, you must pay the full amount shown on the front of this summons, including the cost of issuing the summons, before the hearing date.

If you do not pay the total amount due on your summons, we will ask the magistrates' court to grant a liability order at the court hearing.

Second reminder

If you pay the amount you owe from the first reminder, but then do not pay another instalment on time, we may send a second reminder. If you make a payment within seven days to bring your account up to date, you can continue paying by instalments.

If you do not pay the amount shown on the reminder within seven days and you do not contact us, we will wait another seven days before we ask the magistrates' court to send you a summons to attend a court hearing.

If you want to stop the case going to the magistrates’ court, you must pay the full amount shown on the front of this summons, including the cost of issuing the summons, before the hearing date. 

If you do not pay the total amount due on your summons, we will ask the magistrates' court to grant a liability order at the court hearing.

We can only send two reminder notices in a financial year. If you pay late a third time, you will lose your right to pay in instalments and we will send you a final notice for the full amount of council tax due for the rest of the year.

Final notice

The final notice tells you how much the balance of your council tax bill is for the year and gives you seven days to pay it.

If you do not pay the amount shown on the final notice within seven days, we will ask the magistrates' court to send you a summons to attend a court hearing.

If you want to stop the case going to the magistrates’ court, you must pay the full amount shown on the front of this summons, including the cost of issuing the summons, before the hearing date.

If you do not pay the total amount due on your summons, we will ask the magistrates' court to grant a liability order at the court hearing.

Liability order

If you do not pay the total amount due on your summons, we will apply to the magistrates' court for a liability order.

This gives us the right to collect the money you owe using methods such as:

  • request your employer to take regular deductions from your salary through attachment of earnings
  • take money directly from your benefits
  • employ enforcement agents (bailiffs) to visit your home and either collect the amount you owe, or if this is not possible, remove items belonging to you and sell them
  • put a charging order on your property, which means we could force its sale to pay for the council tax you owe, or recover the amount you owe from a future sale of the property
  • start bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings against you
  • ask a Magistrate to send you to prison.

The full process for collecting missed payments is shown in the diagram below:

Council tax bill recovery flowchart

Do I have to attend the hearing at the magistrates' court? 

If you want to discuss an arrangement to pay the council tax you owe, you do not need to go to court. You can contact us on (01482) 393939 or visit one of our customer service centres

The magistrates cannot make a payment arrangement with you but we will be at court 30 minutes before your hearing so you can speak to us if you want to discuss a payment arrangement. It is recommended that you make every effort to contact us before attending court as it can be very busy at the court on the hearing date.

You may decide to attend court if you have a ‘valid defence’ to stop us applying for a liability order. The two main defences to do this are if:

  • we have not followed the procedures set down in law when trying to collect your council tax
  • you have paid all of the overdue council tax within the time limit given on the last reminder or final notice sent to you.

If you think that you have one of these defences, please telephone us urgently on (01482) 393939 so that we can look into it for you. We may tell you that you do not need to go to court. You can speak to the court about these valid defences or you can get a solicitor to speak for you. You will need to provide evidence to back up what you say. The court cannot take into account any other reasons why you have not paid, even if you have been unable to pay. They cannot change the law and they must apply it as it stands.

My employer has received an attachment of earnings, what does this mean?

If you have unpaid council tax and a liability order has been issued by the magistrates' court, we can ask your employer to pay part of your wages directly to us.

The amount that is deducted is a set percentage based on how much you earn. This percentage is decided by the government. Your employer can also deduct an extra £1 each time towards the admin cost of doing this. 

If you change jobs or stop working, you must tell us as soon as possible.

I've received an attachment of earnings for an employee, what does this mean?

An attachment of earnings order means you must deduct a set percentage from your employee’s wage to pay for their council tax. You can also deduct an extra £1 for each deduction to cover your admin costs.

The amount you must deduct is determined by percentages set by the government. This is detailed on the table enclosed with the order.

You should only apply two orders per employee at any one time. If you receive a third order, please contact us.

A second order does not replace the first order. You must make deductions for both orders at the same time until they are paid. Deduct the appropriate percentage for the earliest order first, then deduct the appropriate percentage for the second order, depending on how much wage is left after the first deduction.

Payments must be sent to us, using the address provided in the order, within 19 days of the end of the month when the employee was paid. It is a criminal offence not to do this and you can be fined up to £1,000.

If the employee named on the order does not work for you, or has left your employment, you must tell us within 14 days. Please telephone us on (01482) 393939 if you have any queries.

I've received a financial information form, what do I need to do?

If you receive a financial information form from us, make sure you fill it in fully, including your work details, and send it back to us within 14 days. If you do not return it, only complete some of the details, or give false information, you can be fined up to £1,000 and get a criminal record.

If you need more time to gather all the information to fill it in, contact us as soon as possible to let us know.

If you do not return the form, we can use bailiffs to collect your debts or send you a summons for not returning the form. You would have to pay the enforcement agent fees or run the risk of getting a criminal record.

Can you take deductions from my benefits?

If you have unpaid council tax and a liability order has been issued by the magistrates' court, we can ask the Department for Work and Pensions to send part of your Universal Credit, Jobseekers' Allowance, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance or Pension credits directly to us.

The amount deducted is currently £3.70 per week. 

These deductions continue until the council tax you owe is paid in full, or until you stop receiving benefits.  If you stop receiving benefits and the debt is still unpaid, you need to contact us to make an arrangement to pay straight away.

My account has been passed to an enforcement agent (bailiff), what does this mean?

If you have unpaid council tax and a liability order has been issued by the magistrates' court, we can pass your details to an enforcement agent (otherwise known as bailiffs) to collect the amount you owe, plus any extra charges. 

We do not normally instruct an enforcement agent if you:

  • have an agreed payment arrangement with us as a result of a summons being issued and you are paying it
  • receive Universal Credit
  • receive Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • have provided to us your employment details.

If you receive a letter or a visit from an enforcement agent, you should contact them urgently to discuss your options for repayment.

The enforcement agencies we employ to collect unpaid council tax are:

Jacobs 
6 Europa Boulevard 
Conway Park 
Birkenhead 
Wirral 
CH41 4PE

Tel: 0345 601 2692
Fax: (0151) 650 4999 
Email: mail@jacobsenforcement.com

Rundles & Co 
53 Northampton Road 
Market Harborough 
Leicestershire 
LE16 9HB

Tel: 0845 658 5030 
Email: info@rundles.org.uk

Newlyn PLC 
59 Clarke Road 
Northampton 
NN1 4PL

Tel: (01604) 633001 
Fax: (01604) 621096 
Email: enquiries@newlynplc.co.uk

Enforcement agents are covered by new government laws and the companies that work on our behalf adhere strictly to these laws. Every agent is certificated by the court and has received proper training to make sure they behave professionally at all times. All companies employed us are members of the Civil Enforcement Association, the governing body for enforcement agents.

What can an enforcement agent charge?

If an enforcement agent has been instructed by us to collect unpaid council tax, you will incur extra charges as detailed in the table below. 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.
£75
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 per cent of any outstanding debts more than £1,500
Enforcement agent needs to sell your goods to recover debt. £110, plus 7.5 per cent of any outstanding debts more than £1,500

 

What is a charging order?

If you have at least £1,000 unpaid council tax and a liability order has been issued by the magistrates' court, we can place a charging order on your property. 

If we decide to do this, we will send you a letter that explains the details of your debt and how a charging order would affect you. To stop the order, you must contact us without delay and arrange to pay the amount of council tax you owe in full. 

If we do not receive your payment or hear from you, we will apply to the county court to place a charging order on your property. This means that when the property is sold, your council tax debt, plus any legal costs we incur, must be paid before you receive any money from the sale of your property. 

The county court can also give us permission to force the sale of your property to recover your unpaid council tax and any legal costs we incur. 

We will only apply for a charging order if we have tried other ways of getting the council tax you owe from you and we have not been able to. We would much prefer to receive your payment than ask for a charging order and pass the expensive legal costs on to you.

Bankruptcy or liquidation, what could this mean to me?

If you or your company owe more than £5,000 in council tax or £750 in business rates, and you have already been summons to attend a court hearing and a liability order has been granted, we may start bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings against you. 

If we take this action, we will send you a statutory demand that gives you 21 days to pay the full amount of money you owe.

If you do not settle the statutory demand, we will present a petition for bankruptcy or liquidation to court.

If a bankruptcy order is issued against you this means:

  • your home could be sold to pay your debts
  • your bank accounts will be frozen
  • the official receiver will investigate your affairs
  • you will lose your credit rating and you will be blacklisted from getting credit
  • if you are declared bankrupt, the official receiver will control your spending for three years.

If a liquidation order is granted against your company your company will be wound up by the official receiver.

Could I go to prison?

If we have not been able to collect the council tax money you owe in any other way, the final option is for us to ask the magistrates' court to send you a summons to attend court to consider if you should be sent to prison.

Before we do this we might send you a committal information form. To avoid going to magistrates' court you must fill this in and either pay in full or make an offer of payment. 

If you do not pay in full or return the form, you will be sent a summons with the date and time you must attend magistrates' court. You will have to pay costs for this summons.

At the hearing, the magistrates will look at your income and spending to decide if you are, or have been, in a position to pay your council tax. If they believe that you have refused to pay or could have paid but have not, they can order you to make payments or send you to prison for up to three months.

You must attend a committal hearing

If you do not come to court, we will ask the magistrates to issue a warrant for your arrest. You will be charged for this. 

This means an enforcement officer will arrest you and take you to court. 

When you do appear in court, the process will be the same as explained above but you must expect to explain why you ignored the previous summons to attend.

In this serious situation, it is clearly in your own interest to pay the council tax you owe in full. If you cannot, and the magistrates order you to make payments, you must pay exactly as ordered. If you do not you can be sent to prison. We do not wish to send people to prison and will only take this action as a last resort.

I think the amount on my bill is wrong, what should I do?

You cannot talk to the court if you think your bill is wrong. You must raise this matter with a valuation tribunal (the tribunal is not part of the council).

If you think your charge is wrong, please contact us so we can check this for you.