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Dealing with a summons

If you miss a council tax payment, we will take action to recover the money. If you receive a court summons for an unpaid council tax bill, do not ignore it. Enforcement action is a last resort, please work with us to settle your debt as quickly as possible.

What happens if I miss a payment?

We will send a reminder notice for any unpaid instalment shortly after it is due. The overdue amount must be paid within seven days.

If you bring your account up to date within seven days of the reminder you can still pay by monthly instalments as shown on your bill.

What happens if I do not pay the overdue amount after a reminder notice?

If you fall behind again we will send a second reminder asking you to bring your account up to date. If the overdue amount is not paid, you will lose the right to pay by instalments. No further reminders will be sent and we will send you a court summons that includes at least £53 costs.

If you bring your account up to date within seven days of the second reminder you can still pay by monthly instalments as shown on your bill, but no more than two reminder notices will be sent in the year.

If you bring your account up to date after the second reminder but do not pay for a third time, you will be sent a final notice for the year’s charge that is due.

I have not paid the overdue amount, what happens now?

If the overdue amount is not paid we will send you a summons on behalf of the magistrates’ court, which includes at least £53. At this stage it is no longer sufficient to just pay any overdue instalments. You would have to pay the balance in full or contact us to make a payment arrangement.

What if I pay the total amount payable (including costs of £53) before the court hearing?

Please note that if the total amount payable (including costs of £53) shown on the summons letter is paid in full before the hearing date no further action will be taken and there will be no need to attend Court.

However, if the total amount is not paid before the court hearing date, we will apply to the Magistrates’ Court for a liability order. Once the liability order is granted a further £17 costs will be payable.

Court hearings

We will give you at least 14 days’ notice of the court hearing. We will take no further action if the outstanding charge and costs are paid in full before the hearing.

You do not have to go to court if you know the council tax charge is correct, but you have not paid it. You can go to court if you do not agree the charge is payable for any of the following reasons:

  • The property the charge is for is not in the valuation list that shows all the residential properties in the city
  • The council tax has not been set correctly
  • The council tax bill did not show the correct instalments you needed to pay
  • The charge has been paid
  • More than six years have passed since the council tax charge became due.

If the magistrates agree that the unpaid charge is correct and payable they will grant a liability order against you for non-payment.

If you cannot pay the balance in full after the liability order has been granted

All recovery documents that we send advise you to contact us if you cannot pay the outstanding balance, including costs, in full. If you cannot do this, talk to us immediately and we will consider making a final arrangement with you. This arrangement will need to be backed up with your employment details and/or benefits details. We have a debt policy to help anyone in this position.

What happens next?

If you do not pay in full or maintain the final payment arrangement, our next action will be one of three things:

  • Attachment of earnings: We will contact your employer to take money direct from your wages
  • Deductions from benefits: We will take the money directly from your benefits
  • Enforcement: If the first two options don't work, we will send an enforcement agent to collect the money.

What happens if an enforcement agent is sent to collect the money?

If we employ an enforcement agent, this will immediately incur a fee of £75. From this stage you must discuss any payment issues directly with the agent.

The enforcement agent will try to make an arrangement with you to pay the charge. If this cannot be done, or you do not pay as agreed then you will incur further fees of at least £235 and the enforcement agent can take control of goods in your home.

If you still do not make an arrangement to pay, the enforcement agent may remove goods from your home to sell at auction. You will incur further fees of at least £110, plus the costs of holding the auction, storage fees and any other fees reasonably incurred by the enforcement agent.

What happens if I still don't pay?

If an enforcement agent is unsuccessful, we can take action to have you made bankrupt, secure the debt against your home or take further court action.

If you owe £5,000 or more, we can enter a petition against you to have you declared bankrupt. Your home could be sold if we have to take this action, and you may be charged several thousand pounds in legal fares.

If you have a debt of £1,000 or more and you own your own home, we can apply to the county court to place a charge on your home. Any charges included in the order will be paid automatically to us when the sale completes.

We can also ask the magistrates to issue another court summons, for you to appear at court to explain why you have still not paid the charge. If we have to do this you will be charged a minimum further £240.

If you do not come to court a warrant for your arrest will be issued. You will be charged a minimum further £75 for the issue of the warrant.

The court will look at your income and expenditure and order you to make set payments to us. If you fail to pay as ordered, you will be arrested and the magistrates will consider imprisoning you for up to three months.