Coronavirus (COVID-19): struggling to pay your Council Tax bill?
If you're struggling to pay your Council Tax bill, please get in touch with us as soon as possible. By speaking to us, you may be able to create a payment plan or possibly agree to pause your payments until a later date.
If you're worried about how you'll pay your Council Tax, we also advise you to apply for existing benefits or schemes you may be entitled to:
If you're struggling to pay your bill please get in touch with us, don't wait for a reminder or other letter from us as it's best to discuss your account with us at the earliest opportunity. You can
view your Council Tax balance online to see how much you owe.
What should I do before contacting you?
Before you get in touch, you need to work out how much you can offer to pay us.
List all the money you have coming in - yours and your partner's take home pay, benefits, income from people who live with you and other regular income, such as works pension or maintenance.
Then list where your money goes - your rent and mortgage are the most important bills. Council Tax payments take priority over debts such as credit cards, catalogues and loans.
What happens if I don't pay?
When we sent you your Council Tax bill, we told you how much you had to pay and when. If you don't pay as requested:
You receive a reminder notice
If you're making regular payments, but pay later than the dates shown on your Council Tax bill, you may receive a reminder notice because your payments are late. This notice will remind you it’s overdue and to bring your payments up to date within 7 days.
If you want to change the date your payment is due, you can set up a Direct Debit to be taken on a date of your choice. Set up Direct Debit payments or change the dates of your Direct Debit payments
You receive a second reminder notice
If we’ve sent you one reminder already and you paid it on time, but you’re late in paying an instalment again we’ll send you a second reminder.
A second reminder will warn you that the next time you’re late in paying, you’ll get a final notice or you may even get a summons.
You receive a final notice
A final notice will tell you that we’ve cancelled your instalments. It will also tell you that you have to pay everything you owe for the rest of the year within 7 days.
You receive a court summons
A magistrates court summons will be issued to you if you:
We won’t send any further warnings before we send you the summons. If we send a summons, you will be charged for court costs. It’s always best to contact us if you can’t pay your bill on time.
- Make an arrangement to pay but don’t keep it up to date
- Don’t pay anything
- Pay some but not the entire bill
- Ignore the final reminder entirely
What happens once a court summons is issued?
If you get a court summons you can do either of the following:
- Pay the full amount shown on the summons before the date of the hearing, including the court costs of £101.50 or £102.
- Contact us and we’ll try and help you. We might be able to make an arrangement with you to pay what you owe. We’ll ask you about finances and look at your payment records before we agree to do this.
Our application for a liability order will go ahead on the court date and you’ll still have to pay the cost of the court summons. We'll ask you for your employment or income details. If you don't provide this information, an arrangement won't be made.
If an arrangement isn't made before the hearing or paid as agreed after the hearing, a Notice of Liability Order and Financial Statement will be sent to you.
Do I have to go to court?
Due to COVID-19, court hearings will be conducted by telephone. If you attend the court building in person, you'll still be asked to phone us to arrange your attendance at your telephone hearing.
If you intend to dispute your liability before the Magistrates, you must ring us in advance to discuss your account. You still have a legal right to be heard by the Magistrates. If you do not intend to dispute your liability, there is no need to telephone.
A court cost of £101.50 will be added to your account even if you don't attend your telephone hearing.
What will happen at my court hearing?
At the hearing, magistrates will be asked to grant a liability order. If you dispute your liability, the magistrates will ask if you have a valid defence which will stop a liability order being granted.
Defences the magistrates will take into account before deciding to grant a liability order are:
- You've paid the amount shown on the summons in full before the hearing, including the court cost.
- You're not the person who should be responsible for paying the Council Tax.
- We've not sent you the bill, reminder or summons correctly - be aware we only have to prove notices were sent to you, we don't have to prove that you have received them.
If you don't have a valid defence, the magistrates will grant a liability order.
The following are not considered valid defences:
- You can't afford to pay.
- You've applied for Council Tax Support, or a discount, exemption or other reduction.
- You've an outstanding appeal with the Valuation Office.
What is a liability order?
A liability order is granted by the magistrates to give the council more powers to help recover outstanding Council Tax.
A liability order allows us to take any of the following actions if you don't pay your Council Tax, we can:
- Use enforcement agents who may take your goods to sell to cover the amount you owe
- Demand information about your job or benefits
- Take money from your wages
- Take money from certain state benefits
- Take money from your allowance if you're an elected member of a council
- Ask for a 'charging order' to be made against your property
- Start bankruptcy proceedings against you
- Apply for you to be sent to prison
Some of these recovery actions may increase the amount you owe by adding costs, to avoid these additional costs you should make arrangements with us to pay.
What happens if an Enforcement Agent is sent to my home?
As part of a liability order, Enforcement Agents can be sent to your home to seize your personal belongings if you're unable to set up a repayment plan.
There are 3 stages that Enforcement Agents follow:
A written request is sent to pay your outstanding Council Tax and the compliance fees in full, or to arrange a payment plan.
This written request is an official notice that an Enforcement Agent will visit your property in 7 days to take control of goods if you don't respond.
A fee of £75 is added to your account balance at the compliance stage. Every time a liability order is passed from us to an Enforcement Agent a fee of £75 is charged to your account balance.
An Enforcement Agent visits your property and takes control of your goods - if you don't contact them within 7 days to pay the account in full or to arrange a payment plan.
If you arrange a payment plan, the Enforcement Agent may let the goods stay in your property and you enter into a Controlled Goods Agreement. This agreement means a list of all items is created. Should you fail to honour the payment plan then items can be taken.
If you do not pay in full or agree to a payment plan for the outstanding balance of your account, an Enforcement Agent can seize goods - up to the value of what is owed; this is known as Taking Control of Goods. The value of the goods may not be as much as you paid.
An enforcement fee of £235 is added to your account balance as soon as an Enforcement Agent visits your property for the first time. Should you owe more than £1,500, 7.5% of the total amount above £1,500 along with the enforcement fee will be added to your account balance.
For multiple liability orders, only 1 enforcement stage fee is charged.
Sale or disposal stage
An Enforcement Agent attends your property to remove goods for auction or prepare goods to be sold – if the sale takes place at your home.
A fee of £110 is added to your account at the sale or disposal stage, for multiple liability orders, only 1 enforcement stage fee will be charged.
Should you owe more than £1.500, 7.5% of the total amount above £1,500 along with the enforcement fee will be added to your account balance.
In addition to the fees above, the Enforcement Agents may also recover fees for associated costs that are reasonable for storage following removal of goods, locksmiths and auctioneers.
Please note: once your account is passed to an Enforcement Agent your account balance and all fees must be paid to the Enforcement Agent, not the council.
Should you miss an Enforcement Agent visit, their details will be left and you should contact the Agent to make payment or arrange another visit.