What happens if I don't pay?

If you get into payment difficulties and you cannot afford your payments you should contact Council Tax Section straight away to see if we can help you by making a different payment arrangement.

Listed are the different stages in the recovery process and an explanation of what each stage means for you as a Council Tax payer:

Bill / demand notice

Why is it sent? The bill will show how much Council Tax you owe for the year, the amount of each instalment and the due date. They are normally sent at the start of the financial year, or if your Council Tax bill alters during the year. Council Tax is normally payable over ten instalments. However, Council Tax payers can request to pay in twelve monthly instalments.

What should I do? Pay the instalments before the due dates as the payment is due on your account by the instalment date.

What if I cannot pay as billed? Pay as much as possible as regularly as possible. If you are paying less than the due amount or paying after the due date then you will receive further notices. You should contact to discuss your account if you know you have fallen behind with your payments.

First or second reminder

Why is it sent? This is sent because our records show that you have fallen behind with your payments. This usually means you have not paid an instalment on time or that you paid less than you should have done.

What should I do? You should bring your account back up to date within the specified time. If an account is brought back up to date and kept up to date, no further letters will be sent.

What if I cannot do this? If you do not bring your payments up to date you will lose your right to pay by instalments. No further reminders will be issued and the next document you receive will be a court summons for the full balance on your account. Court costs will be incurred at this stage.

If you are unable to pay as required you must contact the Council Tax Section immediately. It may be possible to agree an arrangement which avoids the need to take further recovery action as long as payments are maintained.

Final notice

Why is it sent? This is normally sent if you have had a first and second reminder, brought your account up to date and then fallen behind for a third time. This letter will not be asking for the instalments that have been missed. This letter will cancel your right to pay by instalments and you will be asked to pay the remaining balance on your account in full.

What should I do? You must pay the balance on your account in full within the specified time. If you pay the account in full you will not be sent any more letters.

What if I cannot do this? If you do not pay the account in full you will be sent a Magistrates' Court Summons (see below). If you cannot pay in full you should pay as much as possible as regularly as possible. The Council Tax Section will not re-instate instalments unless there are exceptional circumstances. You should contact to discuss your account as it may be possible to agree an arrangement which avoids the need to take further recovery action as long as payments are maintained.

Magistrates Court Summons

Why is it sent? This is sent to tell you that because you are in arrears the Council is going to Court to obtain a Liability Order against you. This is a legal document which states how much you owe us and it gives us the power to send your account to the Enforcement Agents. Costs will be added to accounts for the Summons being sent.

What should I do? You must pay in full before the Court date. If you pay the balance in full (including costs) before the Court Date you will not be sent any more letters.

What if I cannot do this? If you cannot pay before the Court Date, but wish to make an arrangement to clear your account please contact us straight away. Any arrangement that you make will still include the summons costs, plus a further £31.00 Liability Order costs unless you are able to pay in full before the Court date. Provided that you keep to the arrangement we will not take any further action against you.

A Liability Order allows us to take any of the following actions if you don't pay your Council Tax, we can:

  • 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;
  • Use enforcement agents who may take your goods to sell to cover the amount you owe;
  • Ask for a 'charging order' to be made against your property;
  • Start bankruptcy proceedings against your property;
  • 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.

Changes to enforcement 2014

Since 6 April 2014, bailiffs have been known as Enforcement Agents.

The Government has passed new legislation that will change the way enforcement agents operate and collect debts. This is intended to create a new open, transparent and sustainable process which protects the vulnerable against what is often perceived as aggressive bailiff practices. The principles behind the new rules are aimed at reducing physical door step activity with the enforcement agent, and having a set and clear fee regime.

For further information see Bailiff powers when they visit your home.