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Steps we can take if you don't pay your Council Tax

Find out about the actions we could take if you don't pay your Council Tax

Your Council Tax helps to pay for local services, including social care.

We want to help you pay your Council Tax, and we may able to come to a payment arrangement you can afford.

If you don't let us know you're finding it hard to pay your Council Tax, you may have to pay additional costs and charges.

Recovery steps

If you miss a payment, we'll send you either a reminder notice or a final notice.

If you fall behind with payments or pay later than the dates shown on your bill, we'll send a reminder notice and give you seven days to bring your account up to date.

If you bring your account up to date and fall behind again, we'll send you a second reminder notice.

If you do not bring your account up to date or you fall behind a third time, you'll lose your right to pay by instalments - you'll have to pay the full amount.

If the amount you owe has changed since your last reminder notice, you'll receive a final notice.

If the full year’s Council Tax is due and you do not pay within, 14 days we'll send you a summons to appear in court - costs will be added to your account at this point.

If a Summons has been issued and you fail to pay the full balance (plus costs) before the court hearing date, we'll apply for a Liability Order and more costs will be added to your account. 

A Liability Order allows us to take various actions to recover the money owed, which include:

Steps we can take if you don't pay your Council Tax - accordion

Deductions from your wages

If you’re working, we can ask your employer to make deductions from your wages or salary to pay the amount you owe. 

This is called an Attachment of Earnings Order.

The deductions are set by law, and are taken as a percentage of your net earnings. These may vary from week to week or month to month, for instance if overtime is worked. 

The percentages are set out in law - neither the Council nor your employer can change these.

Find out how we calculate the deduction in our Attachment of Earnings guide

Your employer must follow the attachment of earnings order by law, and may be prosecuted and fined up to £1,000 if they don't. They can charge £1 per deduction to cover their own costs.

Your employer will continue to take payments until you've paid what you owe.

Deduction from your benefits

If you’re claiming certain benefits, we can ask the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for an amount to be taken from your benefit and paid directly to us. 

The DWP will pay us monthly at a rate of £3.70 per week until your debt is cleared. 

Use of enforcement agents (bailiffs)

The law allows us to use enforcement agents (bailiffs) to collect unpaid Council Tax.

Once a debt is passed to an enforcement agent, we cannot make arrangements for payment of the debt with you. 

The enforcement agent will handle the case and collect the payment. They can also take and sell your goods to pay your debt.  

The enforcement agent will contact you and charge extra costs, which are set by law.

If your account is passed to an enforcement agent, you'll be asked to pay a £75 compliance fee.  

If you don't pay the full debt (plus the £75 fee) within 21 days, a £235 enforcement fee will also be due. 

If a controlled goods agreement is signed and goods must be taken to pay the debt, a further £110 will be charged, plus any other expenses incurred through their sale (for example auctioneer or storage fees).

If the enforcement agent can't collect the debt, your case will be returned to us for further enforcement action.

Avoid enforcement action

To avoid your account being passed to the enforcement agent and extra costs being added to your account, contact the agent's recovery team and arrange to pay.

We currently use two enforcement agencies to collect outstanding Council Tax payments:

Find out more about enforcement agents, your rights and how to complain on GOV.UK

Bankruptcy proceedings

If your total debt exceeds £5,000, we can apply to make you bankrupt. 

This means that any assets, such as property, shares or savings, may be used to clear your debts.

Costs involved in this action can be substantial but can be recovered from the person subject to the order. 

A Charging Order on your property

A charging order is a way of securing the debt against your property. 

We can apply to the court for a charging order if you owe £1,000 or more for a property you own.

If you sell your home, you'll have to repay the debt first, before you are given any of the sale proceeds.

We can also take steps to force the sale of your property.

Payments can still be made to reduce the debt. 

If you pay the debt in full, including costs, the charge will be removed.

Prison

If enforcement agents (bailiffs) have been unable to collect the debt and none of the other methods are appropriate or successful, we can go back to the Magistrates’ Court and ask for you to be committed to prison:

  • you'll have to give a full account of your financial circumstances, from when you first fell into debt to the present
  • if you do not attend court, warrants will be sought for your arrest
  • you can be sent to prison for up to 90 days

A prison sentence can be suspended to allow you to clear the debt at a rate ordered by the court.

If you fall behind on a court order you must contact us as soon as possible. The court can reduce your payments, but only if you attend court again - we'll arrange this.

If your case comes back to court and the magistrates are not satisfied with your reasons for not paying they can activate the prison sentence.

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