What happens if you don't pay your council tax

Council tax collection framework

We're committed to assisting all customers to pay their council tax bills.

This includes:

  • maximising council tax support take up
  • providing accurate bills as soon as possible
  • assisting people to make affordable payments arrangements (if a liability order has been obtained)

However, if after following these measures, bills remain unpaid we will use all available powers in order to pursue these debts, including summonsing to Court and collection through enforcement agents, charging orders against property, bankruptcy and in extreme cases even imprisonment.

The document below provides information on the different stages and actions that we may take:

Download Council tax collection framework [PDF, 142KB]


Reminders and final notices

If you miss a payment we'll send you a reminder. A maximum of two reminders will be issued during the year.

Summons

If you ignore a reminder or a final notice we'll send you a summons (£25 charge). You've now lost your right to pay by instalments and must pay the full balance. The summons will tell you how much money you owe and will explain how we are taking the matter to the Magistrates' Court.

Magistrates' Court

In court we'll apply for a liability order (£22 fee will be added to the amount you owe). You don't have to attend the Magistrates' Court but contact us before the court hearing.

The liability order gives us legal powers to recover the money you owe:

  • Request for information – we may send you a form on which you must supply your employment and income details
  • Attachment of Income Support, Jobseekers' Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit - we can ask the Department of Work and Pensions to deduct an amount from your entitlement
  • Attachment of earnings - we can ask your employer to deduct an amount from your wages
  • Charging order - we can place a charge on your home and force the sale of your house, if your debt is more than £1,000 and you're the owner of your home
  • Bankruptcy - we can begin bankruptcy proceedings if your debt is more than £5000

Enforcement agent (bailiff)

If you don't provide us with your income details you may be referred to an enforcement agent (£75 fee will be added to the amount you owe).

The enforcement agent will contact you to agree a payment. If they can't contact you by phone or letter they'll visit your home (£235 fee will be added to the amount you owe) to make a payment arrangement and list any goods that could cover the amount you owe. If you fail to keep to your agreed payments they'll return to your home and take these goods to cover the debt.

Prison

If the enforcement agent can't collect the debt, we can send you a summons to attend a committal hearing in the Magistrates' Court. The magistrate will look at your circumstances and if they believe you should've paid the money, they'll issue a warrant of committal and you could go to prison for up to three months.