What happens if I have council tax arrears or I have missed payments?
You will be sent a reminder letter if you are more than 14 days late paying a council tax payment. If you make the payment within 7 days of the reminder letter then you can keep paying your council tax in instalments. However, if you fail to do this you can be asked by your local authority to pay the whole council tax for the rest of the year. You are then given seven days to pay the whole amount. After this, local authorities can take you to court. Depending on your location, the court process differs.
Court Action in England and Wales
You will receive a summons in the post if your local authority starts court action. This will give you a date and time for your hearing - an extra charge will be added at this point.
- A magistrate will issue a liability order at your hearing. This then gives permission to your local authority to take further action to collect the unpaid council tax payment.
- If you think that a mistake has been made, or your council tax payment has been fully paid before the hearing date then you can attend and tell the magistrate. You should ask the local authority to agree to you paying monthly instalments of your arrears and keep in touch with them.
- Your local authority then has several ways to collect the unpaid council tax payment. (Once the liability order has been issued.
The most common ways are:
- Using Bailiffs, also known as 'enforcement agents'.
- Using your wages to take payments straight out using an attachment of earnings. This is a fixed percentage.
- Taking payments from your benefits. £3.65 can be taken from income support, income based job seekers allowance, income related employment and support allowance or pension credit.
If there are no other ways to collect the debt, they also have the following options. These are rare and are only used as a last resort!
- Securing the debt to your home using a charging order if you owe more than £1000.
- Make you bankrupt if you owe more than £750.
- Send you to prison for up to three months. This extremely rare, and only used when somebody is deliberately refusing to pay their council tax. The local authority can't send you to prison if any of the above methods could be used instead.
Court Action in Scotland
If your local authority starts court action, they will apply to the sheriff court for a summary warrant. A fee of 10% of the outstanding council tax will also be added.
- A charge for payment letter will then be sent to you asking you to pay the amount due within 14 days.
- The charge for payment letter also comes with a form which you can fill in and return asking for a time to pay order. The form must be completed straight away and sent to the sheriffs office with an order of payment. However, it's very important that your offer of payment is realistic so you should call us and speak to one of our advisers to work out how much you can afford.
- If the local authority accepts your offer of payment, you will make the payments you've agreed and no further action will be taken.
- If you do not make the payments which you have agreed or do not apply for a time to pay order, your local authority has several options to collect the unpaid council tax.
The most common ways are:
- Use earnings arrestments to take payments straight from your wage
- Use bank arrestments to take payments directly from your bank
They also have the following options; these should only be used if there are no other ways to collect your arrears as a last resort.
- Sheriff officers taking goods from both outside and inside your home.
- If you owe more than £3,000, Sequestration (Scottish Bankruptcy) could also be an option.