Council Tax FAQs – Reminder notices, final notices and summonses

This section explains what happens if you don’t pay your council tax and what to do if you can’t pay your council tax. It explains what we can do within the law if you don’t pay and what your legal obligations are.

What happens if I don’t pay my council tax?

You have a legal duty to pay council tax and we have a legal duty to collect it. Because of this we have a recovery procedure in place to collect any unpaid charge. This is the same procedure followed by all authorities that collect council tax up and down the country.

Not paying your council tax could lead to enforcement action, for example an attachment to your earnings, or state benefits and in very extreme cases a prison sentence.

More details about our recovery procedure can be found in the related FAQs and information section below. This contains information about the recovery notices that we have to send. If you have received any of these notices it is important that you contact us to discuss the situation. 

What happens if I don’t pay my council tax on time?

You have the right to pay your council tax in the instalments that we have given you on your bill. But we have to follow a set procedure for recovering council tax if those instalments are not paid, or not paid on time.

If you miss an instalment, or don’t pay enough, we will send you a Reminder Notice. 

If you don’t pay what the reminder asks you to pay, you will lose your instalments and we will send you a Final Notice. 

If you don’t pay the full balance shown on the Final Notice you could be summonsed to the Magistrates court for a Liability Order hearing. This is so that we can take further steps to recover the money.

If you can’t pay, or can’t pay on time, then please contact us immediately and we will try to find a way to sort out the problem with you.

Why have you sent me a reminder notice?

If you have missed an instalment or you haven’t paid enough, we will send you a Reminder Notice. You must the pay the amount that the reminder is asking you to pay within 7 days. If you don’t, you will lose your right to instalments and we will ask you to pay the remaining balance all in one go.

We realise that people make mistakes and if you simply forgot to pay, or paid the wrong amount please speak to us and we can try to resolve the problem without it getting worse. For example we might suggest that you change the way you pay us to direct debit. 

Why have you sent me a final notice?

If you have received a Final Notice from us you will have now lost your right to pay by instalments and you must pay the full amount within 7 days. If you don’t pay the full amount you will receive a Summons to appear at a Liability Order hearing at the Magistrate’s court and costs will be added to your account. 

If you can’t pay the full amount, there still might be a way to resolve the problem, but you must contact us immediately. For example, we may be willing to discuss a new instalment plan with you, if you agreed to pay us by direct debit.

Why have you sent me a summons?

If you have received a Summons you will have received a Final Notice from us first and you have not paid the amount that you were asked to pay. You have been summonsed to appear at a Magistrate’s court for a Liability Order hearing and costs have been added to your account. To stop the hearing going ahead you must pay the full amount, including the costs, by the court date.

If you cannot pay the full amount you must contact us immediately. We will need to discuss why you haven’t paid, and discuss options with you for resolving the problem.

Why have you sent me a liability order?

At a liability order hearing the magistrates have decided that we have followed all the correct procedures in asking you to pay your council tax for your property, but you haven’t paid what you should have paid, or haven’t paid at the right time.

This is a serious situation and you must contact us immediately to discuss the problem. We need to understand why you haven’t paid and discuss options with you for resolving the problem. Now that you have been sent a liability order, we can:

FINANCIAL INFORMATION

Ask for financial information about your household income and you will have been sent a form to complete to help us understand your financial situation.

TAKE CONTROL OF GOODS

This is seizing and removal of goods to be sold at public auction to settle what you owe. The Council employs certificated agents for this work. Taking control of goods can mean further substantial costs which will be added to your account.

If your case is passed to the Council’s Agent the following costs will be added to your account;

  • For passing your case to the Agent £75.00 for each liability order,
  • For an Agent visiting you £235.00 (one amount) plus 7.5% of the balance over £1,500.00,
  • Where goods are sold and disposed of £110.00 plus 7.5% of the balance over £1,500.00

ATTACHMENT OF EARNINGS ORDERS

We can take money from your wages or salary without going back to court.

ATTACHMENT OF INCOME SUPPORT

Regular deductions can be made from your Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance.

CHARGING ORDER

A legal process where a charging order is placed against your property where the council tax is owed. This amount plus costs and interest will be paid to us if you re-finance or move.

BANKRUPTCY

This is a court process where if you cannot pay your debts you can be made bankrupt. Anything that you own including your property can be sold and the money paid out towards your debts.

COMMITMENT TO PRISON

If we pass your case to an enforcement agent and they cannot find any goods to take we can take you back to court and ask the Magistrates to consider whether to send you to prison.

If the Magistrates think you could have paid but didn’t or you refuse to pay they can send you to prison for up to three months.

Before we consider any of these steps, we would prefer to talk to you to discuss the problem. This is so that we can find out why you haven’t paid and discuss the best way for you to start paying back what you owe. Please contact us immediately.

What if I can’t pay my council tax?

The first thing to do is contact us. We need to be aware of your problem and discuss a suitable way to resolve it.

You might qualify for a council tax reduction or discount that you weren’t aware of and we can help you claim this. More details about the Council Tax Reduction scheme can be found on our website or contact us and we will be happy to help you. You can also find out how much of a reduction you could claim by using our Entitlement Calculator.

If you are worried about debt and having general problems in paying your household bills, we have contact details for organisations that can help you.

Can I get a council tax reduction?

You can find out if you could get a council tax reduction, under the Council Tax Reduction Scheme by using our Entitlement Calculator.

If you rent your home, or plan to rent, use it to find out how much rent you should pay, and how much Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction you can get. If you are an owner occupier, use it to work out your entitlement to the Council Tax Reduction scheme. It will also tell you if you should claim Income Support or Tax Credits.

Find out if you’re entitled to a council tax reduction using our Entitlement Calculator.