If you don't pay your council tax

It’s your responsibility to pay your council tax bill on time. If you don’t, you could lose your right to pay by instalments.

The easiest way to pay your council tax is to set up a Direct Debit. If you haven't set up a Direct Debit you can pay online using your debit or credit card, or through our automated telephone line. Read more about the different ways to pay your council tax bill here. 

If you don't pay your council tax on time we'll write to you and can take the following action. 

Reminder 

If you don’t pay your council tax bill on time, we’ll send you a reminder telling you how much is overdue. You’ll need to pay this within fourteen days. You can pay now here. 

If you pay as requested you can continue your payments as usual. The date when your next payment is due will also be shown on the reminder. 

If you don’t pay on time, you may receive a court summons and £28 costs will be added to your account. 

Contact us if you want to change either the date or frequency of your payments.

Final reminder 

If you’ve had a first reminder and brought your account up-to-date, but then you miss another payment, we’ll send you a final reminder asking you to pay within fourteen days. You can pay now here. 

If you pay as requested, you can continue your payments as usual. 

If you don’t pay on time, you’ll receive a court summons and £28 costs will be added to your account.   

Final notice 

If you don’t pay any overdue payments after we’ve sent you a first or final reminder, you’ll lose your right to pay by instalments. 

The final notice will ask you to pay your bill in full within seven days.  You can pay now here. 

If you don’t pay on time, you’ll be issued with a court summons and £28 costs will be added to your account. 

Summons 

If you don’t pay the full amount on the final notice, you’ll be sent a court summons and £28 costs will be added to your account immediately. 

The summons will tell you when your case will be listed at court. 

If you wish to attend court, there are two valid defences: 

  • we have not demanded the council tax as the law sets out
  • you’ve already paid the amount on the summons 

It’s not a valid defence if you: 

  • are unable to pay
  • have applied for council tax benefits
  • have appealed to the Valuation Office against your council tax band
  • have appealed against our decision to hold you liable 

To avoid your case going to court, you must pay in full (including the £28 costs). You can pay now here. 

If you don’t have a valid defence to attend court and can’t pay in full, you can make a payment arrangement with us before the court hearing.  

Your case will still be listed at the court hearing where the magistrates will be asked to grant a liability order against you to secure the debt and award £52 costs. You don't need to attend court. 

The payment arrangement will include the £28 summons costs and £52 liability order costs. Providing you keep up with your payment arrangement, we’ll not take any further recovery action against you. 

Notice of liability order 

After the court hearing, if you haven't made a payment arrangement, you'll receive a notice of liability order (this includes the £28 summons costs and £52 liability order costs). 

The liability order gives us power to recover the outstanding balance on your account in these ways: 

  • taking money directly from your wage (attachment of earnings order)
  • taking money directly from your benefits (attachment to benefit)
  • asking our bailiffs to collect the amount (enforcement agency)
  • placing a charging order on your property if you own it
  • making you bankrupt
  • starting proceedings to send you to prison

It is still possible to pay by direct debit weekly, fortnightly or monthly when you've had a notice of liability order. Read more about how to pay your council tax here.  

Attachment of earnings 

If you're working, we can send an attachment of earnings to your employer asking them to deduct money from your wage to pay your outstanding council tax bill. The amount deducted will be a percentage of your take home pay. Your employer will pay a percentage straight to us until your debt is cleared. They can also take a fee of £1.00 for each deduction to cover their administration. 

Attachment to benefits 

We can ask the Department for Works and Pensions to deduct the outstanding balance on your account from your Income Support, Universal Credit, Job Seeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance or Guaranteed Credit. 

They’ll pay us £3.70 a week from your benefit until your debt is cleared. 

Enforcement agency 

If we pass your case to our enforcement agency, a £75 bailiff fee will be added to your account immediately. 

You should contact the enforcement agency straight away to discuss payment arrangements to avoid further fees being added to your account.

If you don’t, an enforcement agent will visit you and an additional £235 enforcement fee will be added to your account, in addition to the £75 fees already incurred. You can make a payment arrangement with the enforcement agent at any stage, but you must sign the controlled goods agreement. 

If you don’t keep up your payments, they can remove goods from your home. 

If you do make payments to us after your case has been passed to the enforcement agency, your case will remain open with them and they’ll proceed as normal for the remaining balance, including their fees. 

Once your case has been passed to the bailiff, it will remain with them until the full debt is cleared. 

Bankruptcy/insolvency 

We may decide to take bankruptcy/insolvency action against you for not paying your council tax if you owe more than £750 and other methods of recovery haven't been successful. 

If we take this action, you could lose your home and possessions to repay your council tax debt. 

Charging orders 

If you own your property and your debt is more than £1,000 we may decide to apply for a charging order to be placed on the property. 

That means we can force you to sell so that we can recover the outstanding balance on your account. Alternatively, if you sell your property, your debt will be cleared from the proceeds of sale. 

We'll only consider a charging order if all over recovery methods have been unsuccessful. 

Committal proceedings 

If we’ve exhausted all our methods of recovery, we can ask the court to issue you a summons to attend a committal hearing. 

At the hearing, we’ll advise the magistrates that a liability order has been granted against you and provide a history of your debt. 

You’ll get a chance to explain why you’ve not paid your council tax and the magistrates will then decide whether you've deliberately refused to pay. This is known as ‘wilful refusal’ or ‘culpable neglect’. 

You’ll be asked questions about your income and expenditure. This is called a ‘means enquiry’. It helps the court decide whether you’re able to pay and, if so, what you could afford to pay. 

If they decide that you’ve been financially able to pay your council tax, but failed to do so, you may be found in ‘culpable neglect’. 

The court will decide whether you should go to prison for not paying your council tax. 

Court order without a suspended sentence 

The court will order you to pay a set amount. If you don’t keep up your payments, you’ll have to go to court again to explain why you haven’t paid. 

At this point, the magistrates will decide what to do next. They could: 

  • postpone the case to a later date (for example if more evidence is needed), or
  • send you to prison - the magistrates can decide to send you to prison straight away for up to three months

If you fail to attend court, we’ll ask the magistrates to issue a warrant for your arrest without bail. A warrant officer/enforcement agent can arrest you and take you straight to the court to appear in front of the magistrates or be held in the cells to wait for a court hearing.

Contact us

You can contact us to set up a payment plan or request an arrangement to pay your arrears.

If you want to change the date or frequency of when you pay your council tax, or contact us for any other reason, use the form below.