If you are experiencing financial difficulties in paying your Council Tax bill you need to tell us immediately so we can help you. Please do not wait until you are behind with your payments before seeking advice. We have also introduced our own Debt Recovery Policy.
The Law Says...Council Tax becomes due on 1st April each year. However, under normal circumstances the law allows payment to be spread over 10 months from April to January, reducing as the year progresses. You are only entitled to be sent up to two reminders for Council Tax before losing the right to pay by instalments.
This is how it works...
- On the first occasion that you fail to pay an instalment by the due date (this is the date specified on your bill) a reminder will be sent to you. If you pay the amount requested promptly at this stage and remain up-to-date with payments you will maintain the right to pay by instalments. If, however, you fail to pay the amount requested by the due date, a summons will be issued. The summons will increase your debt as court costs will be added and you will lose the right to pay by instalments for the rest of the year. The whole of the year's Council Tax, which remains outstanding will become payable immediately.
- If you have had one reminder and paid it promptly, but then fail to pay by the due date a second time, the same procedures as above will apply.
- If you fail to pay on time for a third time in a year you will be sent a final reminder. This means the right to pay by instalments will be lost for the remainder of the year, even if you brought your account up-to-date on the previous occasions. The whole amount for the year must be paid in full within 7 days. If you fail to pay the full amount a summons will be issued and court costs added to your account. Please pay on time to avoid any additional costs.
What to do if you have received a Council Tax summons
- If you have been sent a summons, it will be because our records show that you were sent a Council Tax bill requiring instalment payment on specified dates. You were then sent a reminder informing you that one or more instalments were overdue. The reminder warned you that you would lose your right to pay by instalments if a payment was not made within 7 days. As you have not paid, this right has now been withdrawn and the summons is for the full amount outstanding for the year including costs incurred to date which are now added to the sum due.
- If you paid your bill recently, have already paid all outstanding instalments shortly before receiving the summons, or if the summons is incorrect in any way then you need to contact our Recovery Section to ensure that your payment has been correctly credited to your account and to discuss your case. If the summons is subsequently withdrawn by the Council, please help us by ensuring your future instalments are paid by the due date. The best way to ensure that your instalments reach us on time is to pay by council tax Direct Debit form. If you have a bank account you can take advantage of this easy option; a direct debit can be set up over the telephone.
- If the court decides that Council Tax has been set correctly and all documents issued in accordance with legislation, and that you have not paid the full amount outstanding, it will grant us a "liability order". This order will give us power to obtain payment in a number of ways, as we may choose. These include your account being passed to the Council's Enforcement Agents, deductions from earnings or Income Support/JSA/ESA, charging order, bankruptcy proceedings, committal to prison.
- Once the summons is correctly issued, the proceedings can be stopped only by making payment in full. This payment must be received by us before the date of the court hearing. Post dated cheques will not be accepted. It is important that your case is easily identified as one to be stopped. To enable us to do this, please write your account reference and summons number on the reverse of your cheque. If paying by cash, please enclose a note showing your account reference and summons number. Payments will not be accepted at the court.
- If you are unable to pay the full amount immediately, you need to contact our Recovery Section immediately.
If you have not already claimed Council Tax Support, you may wish to do so now. However, this will not prevent further action on this summons.
Should I attend the Court?
It is your right to attend the court hearing to present your case if you feel that you are not liable for the amount shown on the summons. However, the only legal reasons why a liability order will not be granted are that the amount has not been legally demanded or that it has been paid. It is easier, quicker and cheaper to sort out all matters before the hearing by contacting our Recovery Section.
When you attend court, the court staff will be available to direct you to the court room where the application will be heard. While every effort will be made to ensure the application will be dealt with on the date specified in the summons sent to you, in the event that there is insufficient court time for it to be heard on that day, you will then be given details of the date and time you are next required to attend court.
For independent advice and information you can contact the following:
- Citizens Advice Bureau- Telephone: 0300 456 8437. The NEDCAB have also produced a Debt and Budgeting Calculator which can be used to produce a draft financial statement or act as a basic income and expenditure budgeting guide/tool.
- National Debtline- Telephone 0808 808 4000.