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What happens if you do not pay

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If you do not pay your Council Tax

There are three main steps that happen if you do not pay your Council Tax.

  1. Reminder notice
  2. Summons letter
  3. Liability order and debt recovery

If you do not pay your Council Tax we will send you a reminder notice. If you receive a reminder notice you must pay immediately or risk a summons.

If you have made a payment in the last few days, or you disagree with the amount outstanding, please contact us.

You can continue to pay monthly instalments unless you have been issued a final notice. If you receive a final notice you will need to pay the whole year’s Council Tax up front.

If you do not pay after receiving a final notice, a court summons will be issued for the full amount. You will also have to pay extra court costs.

Council Tax Summons and Liability Audio Hearing

If you have received a Summons Notice from the Council, it means that they will ask the court to grant a liability order for unpaid council tax. A liability order means that the court agrees that you owe the money and that the council can take steps to collect it. These steps could include seizing goods or taking the money out of your wages or benefit.

If you are on a low income you may be entitled to help paying your Council Tax bill. You could be entitled to help from the Council Tax Support Scheme.

Having enough money to pay your bills can sometimes be a bit of a challenge.  If you are finding it hard to pay your account, we can help you. Call us as soon as possible on 0300 303 0164 and we will work with you to come up with a payment plan. Complete our income and expenditure form

Our officers will never judge you or make you feel bad about your situation.  We will always be happy to talk to you about your account and will work with you to find ways to manage your account, even if you think you have no spare money to offer against your debt.

At present Liability Order hearings are held remotely by audio link. You should not attend a Magistrates Court building.

You could take the following action:

1. Pay off the amount on the summons in full. That will end the case.

2. Do nothing. The council will ask the court to make the liability order in your absence.

3. If you accept that you owe the money, you can make an agreement with the council about how you will pay it (usually in instalments). If you make an agreement to pay with the council, they will still ask the court for a liability order. But if you stick to the agreement, they will not take any other steps (seizing goods etc).

To make an agreement you should contact the Council on 0300 303 0164 immediately to talk about it, rather than waiting for the court hearing. If you do that, you will probably not need to attend the court hearing as the Council will ask the court to make the liability order in your absence. Then they will collect the money as you and the Council have agreed.

If you are thinking about disputing the order (instead of paying – perhaps by instalments – or doing nothing) you should read the notes on the back of the Summons. They tell you what the council must prove to the court, and what defences you have.

Should you still want to dispute the liability order you must check Liability Order Defences to be sure you have a valid defence, then:

4. Contact the Local Authority at least seven days prior to the Court hearing and have a discussion with the council to explain to them why you believe you are not liable. If you cannot agree, you will be given a time to attend court by way of a telephone hearing. You will need to make yourself available for this telephone hearing for the full period of time the Council will give you. If you are not available and fail to answer the call when the Court telephones you the Court may make the Liability Order against you in your absence.

If you default on the arrangement made with the Council, the Local Authority will enforce the Liability Order

Please Note: if you turn up at the Magistrates’ Court without a prior appointment, you may be refused entry and your case may be heard in your absence.

Payment plan

If you cannot afford to pay in full it may be possible to make an arrangement for the money owed.

To do this you need to fill in our income and expenditure form . You can also contact the Debt Management team on 0300 3030164 (option 2) to make your proposal of payment.

The court hearing will still take place and a Liability Order will be applied for. If a payment deal has been agreed and you stick to the payment plan we will stop recovery action.

Legal defences against the issue of a Liability Order

These are not defences to a liability order

Magistrates cannot consider the following questions:

  • whether the council was right to order you to pay council tax on your house.
  • whether you should pay the tax. 
  • whether the amount claimed is wrong.
  • whether you should get council tax support (benefit)
  • whether your council tax support has been worked out correctly. 

You can appeal against these questions to the Council or a Tribunal.  But you cannot raise them in a liability order hearing.

These are defences which have previously been successful

Council Tax: Local Government Finance Act (1992). Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992.

  1. There was no entry in relation to the dwelling in the valuation list effective for the period for which the defendant is alleged to have been liable to pay the council tax 
  2. That the tax had not been properly set 
  3. That the tax had not been demanded in accordance with the statutory provisions or no joint & several taxpayers notice has, where appropriate, been served 
  4. That the amount demanded has been paid 
  5. That more than 6 years have elapsed since the day on which the sum became due 
  6. That the Billing Authority was in breach of the duty to serve notices “as soon as practicable” in the relevant year in compliance with Reg 19(1) of the Admin & Enforcement Regulations 
  7. That the sum outstanding is in respect of a penalty which is the subject of an appeal or arbitration 
    • £70 first failure to supply, or knowing supply false information 
    • £280 second failure to supply same information 
  8. That bankruptcy or winding up proceedings have been initiated 

The Court will issue a liability order if the Council has done what it should, and you are the person responsible for the council tax at that property but you have not got an acceptable defence.

Our powers to recover money owed

If you have not paid the money owed and we have a liability order for your debt then we have the following powers to help us recover this money.

We can get your employer to pay your unpaid Council Tax directly from your wages. We can also apply to take money from the following benefits:

  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit

If this means you do not have enough money to pay other bills, you can talk to us about setting up smaller payments. We do not have to agree to this.

We can send bailiffs (known as enforcement agents) to seize your property if there is no other way to recover your debt. We will tell you how much you owe before the bailiff visits you.

The bailiffs’ costs can be added to the total amount you owe the council. Find out more about this process on the Bailiffs and their fees page.

We can take you to court if you do not pay the money you owe and the bailiffs can’t recover enough property to cover it.

The court will consider whether you:

  • can afford to pay the bill
  • have a valid reason to not pay

You can be sent to prison for up to 3 months if the court decides you do not have a good reason to not pay your Council Tax and you refuse to do so.

If the court decides you have something to pay back you may be able to make an arrangement to pay your debt over time.

If you own your property and owe more than £1,000 a charge may be put against it to secure the debt. We can also start an order for sale proceedings to force the sale of your property to repay the amount outstanding.

If you were to sell your property then proceeds from the sale would have to be paid to clear the Charging Order and costs associated with it.

We can request that you provide information on your current employment status. If you do not work you should provide details of any benefits the household receives. You should also make an offer of repayment to the council if you are sent this form.

Failure to provide this information when requested to do so or failure to provide the correct information is an offence which could lead to a fine of up to £1,000.

We have the power to make you bankrupt if you continue to fail to pay your arrears.


Related content

Pay your Council Tax

Change or update your details

Get money off your bill

Council tax banding and charges

About Council Tax

income and expenditure form

Related documents

Debt Management Strategy (PDF, 434KB)

Court Costs Calculation (XLSX, 18KB)

Contact details

Council Tax, Local Taxation and Benefits, Municipal Offices, Town Hall Square, Grimsby, DN31 1HU

Email: counciltax@nelincs.gov.uk

Telephone: 0300 3030164 option 5

Telephone opening times: Monday to Friday 9am to 4:30pm, except bank holidays