What happens if I can't or won't pay?

info box | debt respite scheme

The Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space) is in place from 4th May 2021, which may give someone in problem debt the right to legal protection from their creditors – through either a standard or a mental health crisis breathing space.  For further information please see the Breathing Space information on Gov.uk.

accordion | council tax - don't or can't pay

Citizens Advice Bureau

Find information on the Citizens Advice website.

I have received a reminder

It is the Council’s aim to collect all statutory instalments of Council Tax as they become due. Initially a bill is issued for an annual charge, giving details of the instalments payable.

The first stage of recovery on a late instalment is a reminder notice. It is our aim to be responsive to individual circumstances and where possible, we will attempt to make a reasonable and mutually acceptable arrangement for you to pay.

It is important that you contact the Council immediately if you are having difficulty in paying. Ignoring a reminder will result in the loss of the right to pay by instalments, and the remaining balance then becomes due in one lump sum payment.

Following a reminder notice, Council Tax staff may be able to make an arrangement to clear the arrears. We are usually prepared to spread any arrears over the remaining instalment period, provided a Direct Debit is set up with your bank and payments are honoured.

Only a maximum of 2 reminders will be served in any one financial year. You will only receive a second reminder if you have complied with the terms of the first reminder and have again fallen behind with your payments.

If you do not pay by Direct Debit an agreement may still be reached, however the Council is not legally bound to make such an agreement and will need to apply for a Liability Order at an additional cost.

If you wish to pay by Direct Debit please phone 01529 308266.

I have received a summons

A summons will be issued if you have not paid a reminder, or made an agreement, or an agreement has been made on the terms a Liability Order will be obtained, but held pending payment of the arrangement.

A summons is a legal notice requiring you to appear at the Magistrates Court only if you dispute liability. Below is a list of valid disputes:

  • Your property is not entered in the Valuation List.

  • The tax has not been properly set.

  • The tax has not been demanded in accordance with the statutory regulations.

  • The amount demanded has been paid.

  • More than 6 years have elapsed since the day on which the sum became due.

  • Bankruptcy or winding up proceedings have been initiated

If you know the tax is due but in arrears you do not need to appear at court, but should contact the council to see if an arrangement can be agreed.

An outstanding benefit claim or appeal against your property band is not a valid defence against the granting of a liability order.

The council will request a liability order at the hearing. Once the order has been granted, and provided you have not entered into a payment arrangement, the Council has the right to determine the next enforcement stage, from the following:          

  • Attachment of Earnings - deducting the money owed directly from your net wage, at the rate specified by law.
  • Attachment of Benefit - deductions from your Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance, again at the rate specified by law.
  • Enforcement Agents (formally known as Bailiffs)/Bailiff - Once the Enforcement Agents/Bailiff have become involved any arrangement must be made direct with them. There will be additional costs incurred if the case is passed to the Enforcement Agents/Bailiff (see notes Enforcement Agents/Bailiff)
  • Charging orders - The Council can make an application to the County Court for an order to receive the amount owed in respect of Council Tax on any interest held by the debtor in a property.  If the debt and costs incurred by the Council are not then paid, an enforced sale of the property can be investigated, again by order of the Court.
  • Insolvency - The Council can also issue a petition for bankruptcy (against individuals) or liquidation (against a Company) which again could lead to the assets of the individual or company being seized and sold to clear the debt and all costs.

The Enforcement Agents act on behalf of the Council to recover a debt, either by an arrangement to pay or by removing goods and selling them at auction.

If the debt remains outstanding following Enforcement Agent action the Council will issue a notice for you to attend a Committal Hearing. At the Hearing you will need to provide details of your income and expenditure, after which the Magistrates will determine whether to make a Committal Order.

I have received a visit from the Enforcement Agent / Bailiff

Government changes

There were Government changes made on the 6th April 2014 concerning Bailiffs who from this point are known as Enforcement Agents.

  • Enforcement Agents (previously known as Bailiffs prior to the 6th April 2014)

  • Cases can be sent to Enforcement Agents to recover the debt.
  • There is a Fixed Administration Fee of £75.00 applied when the Enforcement Agent is sent each case, this is known as a ‘compliance fee’

  • A letter is sent and if there is no response to this first contact an Enforcement Agent will make a first visit, at this point an Enforcement Fee of £235.00 will be added, plus a further fee of 7.5% on debts above £1500.00 applied.
  • If goods are removed to cover the cost of the debt, a sale fee of £110.00 plus 7.5% on debts above £1500.00 is applied, when attending for the purpose of transporting goods to place of sale. This does not have to be physical removal but evidence of steps - example tow truck ordered/invoiced A subsequent arrangement made could include the removal fees.

The charges involved are set out in legislation and are considerable. It is advisable to avoid matters reaching this stage.

If your debt is passed to the Enforcement Agents, it is no longer negotiable with the authority, you will need to contact the enforcement agents directly, to discuss payment arrangements.

Enforcement Agents

We use Marston Holdings and Bristow & Sutor Enforcement Agents. See our useful links for more information.