What happens if you don't pay your business rates

Your rates demand notice tells you how you can pay your bill.

If you’re struggling to make or keep up your payments, contact us to discuss other arrangements for paying your bill.

If you don't pay your bill according to the payment instructions, or make other arrangements with us, we’ll start proceedings to recover the payments you owe.

You can also sign up and view you business rates account online.


If you fail to pay, the first thing we’ll do is send you a reminder. This will ask you to bring your payments up-to-date within seven days.

At this stage it's still possible to pay by Direct Debit on either the 5, 12, 18 or 25, over 10 or 12 months. 

If you can't clear the amount outstanding, contact us to make other arrangements. If you make other payment arrangements and you don’t stick to them, we’ll take further recovery action.

Final notice

If you don’t pay any overdue payments after we’ve sent you a reminder, you’ll lose your right to pay your bill by instalments. We'll issue you a final notice asking you to pay your business rates in full within seven days.

If you don't respond to a reminder or final notice this may result in further steps being taken to obtain payment. In such cases, we make an application to the magistrates court to issue a summons for non- payment.

If you're unable to pay in full, contact us to let us know so we can look into the matter further.


If you don’t pay on time, you’ll be issued with a court summons and £52 costs will be added to your account. 

You'll be required to pay your business rates balance in full, including the £52 summons costs, before the court hearing date detailed on the summons. This will remove your case from being listed at the court hearing.

If you can’t pay in full before this date, your case will still be listed at the court hearing. This means we'll include the £52 summons costs and an additional £28 liability order costs from the court hearing.

You can contact us to make a special arrangement with us, which will include the £80 costs. If you do this, you don't need to attend court and the liability order will be granted in your absence.

Liability order

The summons will set out a court hearing time at which the magistrates will be asked to issue a liability order for non-payment.

Additional costs of £28 will be added to your rates account for the cost of the liability order on top of the £52 summons costs.

A liability order allows us to take other legal proceedings to recover the outstanding balance if a special arrangement isn't made. This could be:

  • referring your account to an enforcement agency
  • applying for your bankruptcy/liquidation
  • applying for you to be sent to prison

If you get in touch to make a special arrangement with us, and stick to it, none of the actions above will be taken against you.

However, if you fail to maintain your arrangement, we'll start proceedings.  

Attending court

We must prove:

  • the bill and reminder have been posted to your current or last known address. It's not a defence to say that you didn't receive it. We just need to prove that we sent it to your current or last known address.
  • you've not paid the business rates, or part of them as per your bill.

If you've paid the rates, but not the costs, we can still ask for a liability order and use it to collect the costs.

If the magistrate decides that it's likely that these things are true, they must make a liability order.

Defences against a liability order

The following defences, which may be considered applicable to applications for liability orders, have been accepted by the courts as being valid:

  • That the property in respect of which the amount is due did not appear for the relevant period on the local rating list.
  • The ratepayer was not in occupation of the premises; someone else was. Note: if the ratepayer has gone out of occupation, they will remain liable for empty property rates for the period to when their rateable occupation ceased, to the end of their lease or tenancy agreement.
  • That the rate has been paid as per the bill and you have proof of payment.
  • That bankruptcy/insolvency proceedings have started against the named ratepayer.
  • Although you occupy only part of the premises in one assessment, you're being charged for the whole property and other businesses are in occupation of other parts of the premises.    
  • The bill, reminder notice and summons have not been served in accordance with National Non-Domestic Rating (Collection and Enforcement) (Local Lists) Regulations 1989.
  • The ratepayer is deceased.
  • The application was made more than six years after the first demand notice was issued.

As well as the defences established by case law, the following are valid defences by virtue of statutory provision:

  • The defendant is unable to pay because of relevant service under the Reserve and Auxiliary Forces (Protection of Civil Interest) Act 1951.
  • An administration order has been made either under Part 2 of the Insolvency Act 1986 or s.112 of the County Courts Act 1984 and the debt is scheduled in accordance with s.113.
  • A winding-up order has been made.
  • The property is wholly or mainly used for charitable purposes and the entitlement to mandatory relief has not been granted.
  • Billing and enforcement requirements have not been complied with. For example, the wrong multiplier has been used.

The court cannot consider issues such as outstanding valuation appeals or that you cannot afford to pay as valid defences. If you don't have a valid defence the magistrate will issue a liability order which allows us to take further action if you still fail to pay your business rates.

Enforcement agent

If we pass your case to our enforcement agency, a £75 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 to remove goods to cover the amount you owe. An additional £235 enforcement fee will be added to your account, plus 7.5% of any balance owed over £1500.

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 and will charge an additional fee of £110 plus 7.5% of any balance owed over £1500 (plus reasonable storage and auctioneer fees).

If you 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.

This course of action can add substantial costs to your account. To avoid this, contact us before the court hearing.


Bankruptcy is a declaration to your creditors that you can't afford to repay your debt.

If you, or your company, owe more than £5000 in business rates, and you've been summonsed, we may start bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings against you.

If we take this action we'll pass your account to our solicitors, who'll send you a statutory demand. A statutory demand gives you 21 days to pay us the full amount. This will include the costs we've incurred by taking this action, and in some cases, statutory interest.

If you receive a statutory demand you should contact our solicitors immediately.

If you don't settle the statutory demand, we'll present a petition for bankruptcy or liquidation to the county court.