North East Lincolnshire Council

What happens if you don’t pay your council tax?

If you don’t pay your council tax by the dates shown on your bill you will receive a reminder  and if you still do not pay you risk having a court summons issued for you to pay the full amount.

We don’t want this to happen, so please contact the council tax team as soon as possible if you are having difficulties paying. This gives us a chance to work together to clear what you owe.

We want to help you if you have problems paying bills for council tax, business rates, or any other debts that you owe us (for example, housing benefit overpayments that you have to repay).  We understand the difficulties that you may have in paying your debts and will work closely with other departments and agencies outside of the council to help you.

We have put a together a list of questions and answers to help if you are having problems with council tax arrears.

I have received a reminder notice. What should I do?

Please pay the outstanding amount immediately. If you bring your payments up to date and you have received a reminder or second reminder notice, you may continue with your monthly instalments. All future payments must be made on time or further notices will be issued. If you have received a final notice, you will have lost the right to pay by instalments and the full balance for the remainder of the financial year will have to be paid.

If you do not bring yourself up to date you risk having a court summons issued for the full amount. This will involve additional court costs being added to your bill.

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

I have received a summons. Why have I been summonsed?

You have received a summons because we have sent you a reminder notice or a final notice and you have not brought your account up to date. The notice warned that if you did not keep your payments up to date we would start recovery proceedings through the magistrates court. The summons was issued when your account was not brought up to date.

If you pay the full amount you owe, including any costs, before the court hearing then no further action will be required.

If you cannot pay in full, please contact us immediately and we will make an arrangement for you to pay. This will not stop the matter going to court and there may still be costs.

I cannot afford to pay in full. What should I do?

An arrangement can still be made on the amount outstanding. To do this fill in our income and expenditure form, or contact us to make your proposal of payment. We will consider your proposal and put an arrangement in place. The court hearing will still take place, and a liability order will be applied for, but we may withhold further recovery action if you have already made an arrangement to pay the debt and you are paying as agreed.

If I don’t pay, are there extra costs?

Yes. Late or non-payment results in extra work for both the council and the court. We add these costs to the amount that you owe.

  • A council tax summons is £60
  • A committal summons is £245, plus £75 for a warrant of arrest
  • For costs relating to enforcement agents see our enforcement agent fees page
  • Attachment of earnings – your employer is allowed to charge you £1 every time they deduct money from your wages to pay to us. If your employer decides to make the charge the £1 is kept by them to cover their administration costs. It is not passed to us.

How have the summons costs been calculated?

The council tax (administration and enforcement) regulations 1992 (SI 1992/613 as amended), state that we may include additional costs reasonably incurred. For an explanation of how we calculate the summons cost, please view the summons cost spread sheet in the related documents section of this page.

We do not apply further costs for the issuing of a liability order.

The figure is determined by a realistic estimate of the work dedicated to the application of a liability order, the calculation of this can be viewed on the Summons Cost spread sheet in the document downloads section of this page.  North East Lincolnshire Council also makes comparisons with other local councils and the national average to confirm that the councils resulting costs are reasonable with regards to the level of summons costs applied by other authorities.

In June 2013, the department of communities and local government published ‘guidance to local councils on good practice in the collection of council tax arrears’. This guidance states that ‘in the interests of transparency, local authorities should be able to provide a breakdown, on request, showing how these costs are calculated’.  In accordance with this we have provided an annual breakdown of how our summons costs are calculated in the related documents section of this page.

The calculation is based on activity levels for each year. A review of costs is undertaken each financial year and a report submitted to elected members of the council with any recommended changes to the level of costs.

Do I have to attend the Magistrates Court on the date shown?

No. It is not necessary for you to attend the hearing unless you dispute that you are liable for the council tax. You have the legal right to attend if you wish, but the court will not consider any proposals for payment at the hearing.

If, for any reason, you believe you are not liable for the amount shown on the summons then you should contact us well before the court hearing date. This may save you and the court a lot of time and inconvenience.

If you wish to attend court to object to a liability order being applied, you should get legal advice from a solicitor well before the date of the hearing to see if you have a valid defence. We advise you to bring your summons to court.

Why is just my name on the summons?

Couples who are married, living together, or in a civil partnership and joint owners or tenants will usually be held jointly and severally liable. This means any one person may be asked for the full amount payable and a summons will be issued to each person, in their sole name.

I dispute that I owe the amount shown on the summons. What should I do?

If you believe you are not liable for the council tax shown on the summons then you should contact us well before the court hearing date. This may save you and the court a lot of time and inconvenience.

What if I pay the full amount shown on the summons before the court hearing date?

If full payment is made to the council, including costs, before the court hearing date that is the end of the matter.

What is the procedure at the court hearing?

In accordance with the council tax (administration and enforcement) regulations 1992, if the magistrates decide that the amount demanded is due, and that you have not paid the full amount, then the court will grant the council a liability order.

If you attend the hearing, you may be interviewed by a council employee to determine a payment plan or assist you regarding council tax and any council tax discounts that could apply.

What is a liability order?

A liability order gives the council the following powers to collect any outstanding debt:

Attachment of earnings/benefits
The council can instruct your employer to deduct money from your wages, or the department for work and pensions to deduct money from your benefits.  The amount of deduction is fixed by law.

Instruct enforcement agents to collect sums outstanding
If an attachment of earnings or benefit cannot be made, and no satisfactory arrangement for payment has been made, the account may be passed to an enforcement agent for collection. Visit our enforcement agents page for further information.

Charging orders
If you own your property and owe more than £1000.00 a charge may be put against it to secure the debt. If we are unable to agree repayments and all other recovery avenues have been taken then the council could commence 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.

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

Committal to prison
If we are unable to collect the outstanding debt by other means, you will be summoned back to court to explain to the magistrates the reasons why you have failed to pay the debt. The magistrates may then order you to pay a regular amount to the council. If you do not pay, you will be taken back to court and could be sent to prison for up to 90 days.

Where can I go for more advice?

Further information is available on our help with debt page

You can also get free advice from the local citizen’s advice bureau or visit their website for information on dealing with urgent debt.

More services

Council Tax Liability and Billing team (telephone and postal enquiries only), Local Taxation and Benefits, Municipal Offices, Town Hall Square, Grimsby, DN31 1HU

Email: counciltax@nelincs.gov.uk

Telephone: 01472 326287 (option 1)

Telephone opening times: Monday to Friday 8.30 am to 5.00 pm except bank holidays