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If you are having problems paying your Council Tax

We understand that some people struggle to pay their Council Tax. Please get in touch if this applies to you. We are always willing to listen once we know that there is a problem, and we will do our best to help you. This page outlines some help we can offer, independent sources of support, and the steps we may have to take to recover the amount you owe, if you fail to pay your bill.

Help to manage your bill

It may help you to meet your Council Tax payments if you ensure that you are paying your bill in instalments at regular intervals. We can also support you to find out if you are eligible for a discount, exemption, or Council Tax Support to reduce the size of your bill.

Set up a Direct Debit

If you have received a Reminder Notice because your payment is late, this is a good opportunity to set up a Direct Debit with us. Managing your Council Tax this way means your payments will come out of your account automatically each month, and you don't have to remember when they are due.

Visit the Paying your Council Tax page to find out how to set up a Direct Debit.

Spread your instalments over twelve months instead of ten

For operational reasons, we prefer to collect Council Tax over 10 payments, and we normally issue bills calculated this way. However, if this makes it harder for you to budget your expenses, you have the option to ask us to spread your annual bill over twelve monthly payments, instead of ten.

If you wish to take up this option, please you can use our online form to contact us. If you request this, we will automatically calculate any future bills this way.

Get extra help if you are on a low income

If you are on a low income, for whatever reason, you might be entitled to some help towards paying your bill. Council Tax Support reduces the amount of Council Tax that you have to pay, and is taken directly off your bill. Find out more in our Benefits section.

Check if you can get a Council Tax discount or exemption

We will ask you about your circumstances to see if you could claim a discount on the amount of Council Tax you have to pay, or an exemption from paying Council Tax altogether. Find out more in our Council Tax discounts and exemptions section.

Support to manage your finances

There are a number of ways you can get more online help with managing your money. If you are regularly struggling to meet financial commitments, we recommend contacting these independent organisations, who can help you to take control of the situation.

Get financial advice

The following organisations offer free and impartial financial support services:

Use online budgeting tools

These free calculators can help you understand what you are earning and spending, and where you might be able to cut costs:

If you fail to pay your bill

Please contact us if you think you will not be able to make an upcoming Council Tax payment. It is easier for us to help if you get in touch before the payment is due. You can use our online form to contact us.

WarningIf you have not paid your bill, and have not let us know, we may use recovery actions to get the money you owe. Select the appropriate item below to understand the process and the consequences for you. Please note that some of these actions mean that you will lose your right to pay your Council Tax by instalments, or may have to cover additional costs.

Single missed payments

If you have missed this month's payment, you can pay this now using our online payments system.

Direct Debit is the easiest way to pay your Council Tax and the best payment method to avoid missing any future payments. To set up a Direct Debit, visit Paying your Council Tax.

If you're unable to make the payment you have missed, please contact us as soon as possible.

Reminder Notice

We issue a Reminder Notice when our records show that you have not paid the latest instalment on your Council Tax bill. You have seven days to pay the amount shown on the notice. You can pay now using our online payments system.

Please don’t ignore a Reminder Notice, because if we have to continue with recovery action against you, you may lose your right to pay by instalments, and have to pay the total remaining balance of your bill. You may also end up having to pay extra costs.

If you have received a Reminder Notice, we encourage you to sign up now to pay your future instalments by Direct Debit, to avoid missing any future payments.

Legally, we can send you a Reminder Notice for a missed Council Tax payment on two separate occasions in one financial year (start of April to the end of March). If you miss a payment for a third time, we will issue a Final Notice.

Final Notice

If you have received two Reminder Notices and have a third missed payment, we will issue a Final Notice. This means that you have to pay the remaining balance of your Council Tax for the year in full.

If you have received a Final Notice and wish to pay the full amount now, please pay now using our online payments system.

Court Summons

We will apply to the Magistrates’ Court to issue you with a summons if:

  • you do not pay within seven days the amount which is due on your Reminder Notice or Final Notice 
  • you do not contact us to inform us that you cannot pay

A summons is a request for you to appear before the Magistrates’ Court. Issuing a summons costs £68, and we will add this to the balance of your Council Tax account. If you have received a summons, you should contact us straight away to discuss your account. To avoid having to go to court, you can pay your bill in full, or agree a payment arrangement with us.

A court hearing only decides if you are liable to pay the Council Tax, not if you are able to pay. You only need to attend if you are disputing your liability for the outstanding amount. 

Liability Order

If a magistrate's court decides that you are liable for the Council Tax shown on your summons, it will make a Liability OrderIssuing a Liability Order costs £12, and we will add this to the balance of your Council Tax account. We will write to you to notify you if a liability order has been granted. When you receive this, it is important that you contact us immediately to avoid us taking further action against you.

A Liability Order allows us to request personal financial information from you in order to decide how to recover your unpaid Council Tax. This can include:

Attachment of earnings

We can ask your employer to make deductions from your wages or salary to pay towards the amount you owe. The deductions are set by law, and will be a percentage of your net earnings. For each deduction, your employer can take an extra £1 towards their administration costs.

Attachment of benefits
We can ask the Department for Work and Pensions to deduct an amount per week from your Universal Credit, Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance, Pension Credit or Employment and Support Allowance, and pay it to your Council Tax account.

Bailiffs / Enforcement Agents
Please note that 'bailiffs' are now called 'enforcement agents' and the law about how they recover debts has changed. Please read Enforcement Agent Fees 2014 for more information.

If we pass your debt to an enforcement agent to collect, they are entitled to add their costs to the amount you owe. If an enforcement agent contacts you, they will give you the opportunity to make an acceptable arrangement for payment. If you do this, but then don’t make the agreed payments, the agent may visit your home and take your belongings.

Enforcement agents (Bailiffs)

If we pass your account to an enforcement agent for collection, you may need their contact details:

Bankruptcy

If your total debt is more than £750, we may apply to make you bankrupt. You can learn more about what this may mean for you in this Guide to Bankruptcy. Please be aware that your home may be at risk if we have to take this action. 

Charging Order

If your debt is £1,000 or more and you own your home, we can apply to the court for a Charging Order. This is a way of securing the debt against your property. If you sell your home, you will have to repay the debt first, before you can take any of the sale proceeds. Please be aware that your home may be at risk if we have to take this action.

 

Committal Proceedings

We can apply to the Magistrates’ Court for your committal to prison, if the enforcement agent has been unable to collect your debt. You will receive a court summons. If you don’t attend court, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. The magistrates will assess your circumstances and ask why you haven’t paid your bill. If they believe you should have paid, they may issue a committal warrant and you could go to prison for up to 90 days.

Find out what other information and support is available by following the links in the panel: More on Council Tax and Other benefits and support.