How we recover unpaid Council Tax bills

First and second reminders

If you do not pay your Council Tax instalment when it is due, you will be sent a reminder shortly after the due date.

A maximum of two reminders will be issued in any financial year. However, a second reminder will only be issued where you complied with the terms of payment contained in the first reminder but then subsequently failed to pay a further instalment on the due date. 

Reminders require payments to be brought up to date within seven days. If you do not do this, you lose the right to pay by instalments and you will have to pay the full amount due for the rest of the year in one lump sum payment.

Payment arrangements

You should contact us as a matter of urgency if you still cannot pay after receiving a reminder because it may be possible to reach a payment arrangement with us to clear the outstanding amount.

Apply for a Council Tax payment arrangement.  

By requesting a payment arrangement you may be required to provide full details of your income and expenditure. In some cases, we may still need to apply for a liability order (see below) which will result in you incurring additional costs.

What happens if you fail to pay after receiving a reminder

If you fail to pay after a reminder or do not contact us to make an arrangement, an application will be made to the Magistrates' Court for a Liability Order. You will be sent a summons which will show the date of the court hearing and the amount which we’re seeking to recover from you. The amount will be for both the outstanding Council Tax plus additional costs of £84.80 incurred by the issue of the summons.

If you do not think you're liable or dispute the amount of the summons you should call us on 01483 755 855 or email  

When no agreement can be reached, you have the right to attend the court hearing and offer evidence as to why the Liability Order should not be granted. 

The following are valid defences against the issue of a Liability Order:

  • There was no entry in the Valuation List for the period of liability.
  • The tax has not been properly set.
  • The tax has not been demanded in accordance with statutory provisions.
  • The amount demanded has been paid.
  • More than six years has elapsed since the day on which the sum became due.
  • The council failed to serve notices ‘as soon as practicable’ in the relevant year.
  • The outstanding sum is in respect of a penalty subject to appeal.
  • Bankruptcy or winding up proceedings have been commenced.

Waiting for the outcome of an appeal over the banding of your property is not a valid defence against the issue of a Liability Order.

Even if you decide not to dispute the amount owed in court, you should still get in touch. Attempts can be made to agree a reasonable payment arrangement even at this late stage. Providing you stick to it, you will avoid any further recovery costs. 

Simply deciding not to attend court will not prevent the hearing taking place. The court will issue a Liability Order against you if they are satisfied that the amount shown on the summons is due from you and has not been paid.

Next steps after a Liability Order has been issued

A Liability Order gives us the right to demand information from you about your employment and earnings in order to help decide what course of action will be taken to recover the outstanding debt. 

We can decide on the following options to recover the debt:

  • Attachment of Earning Order - We can order your employers to deduct amounts directly from your wages or salary and pay it direct to us. The amount will be a set percentage of the earnings you have left after other deductions, like Income Tax, have been made.
  • Deductions from Income Support / Job Seekers’ Allowance - If in receipt of either of these benefits, we can make arrangements for set amounts to be deducted from your entitlement.
  • Enforcement agents (bailiffs) - We can employ enforcement agents to collect the debt and/or remove your goods for sale at auction so that all or part of the outstanding amount can be cleared from the sale proceeds. You should be aware that you will be liable for the agent’s charges, which are set out in legislation and can cost a considerable amount.
  • Charging Order - Where more than £1,000 is outstanding under a liability order(s) and the Council Tax payer has a legal interest in the property, we may apply to the County Court for a charging order on the property. The effect of a charging order is that if a property is sold, the amount of the charging order is paid out of the proceeds of the sale. There are circumstances where we may go back to Court and take Order for Sale proceedings to force the sale of the property at a price set by the Court.
  • Bankruptcy - We can commence bankruptcy proceedings against you under the provisions of the Insolvency Act 1986.

Failure to pay could lead to a prison sentence

If all efforts to collect the amount due from you have failed and the enforcement agent has been unsuccessful then, as a last resort, we can apply to the Magistrates' Court for a warrant committing you to prison.

Before such a warrant can be issued the court must hold a ‘means enquiry’ with you present and they will only issue a warrant if satisfied that the failure to pay is as a result of wilful refusal or culpable neglect. The maximum period of imprisonment is three months. Having fixed a term of imprisonment the court can postpone the warrant on certain conditions and normally these relate to payment of the outstanding amount being made by regular instalments over a period of time. The court also has the power to cancel all or any part of the outstanding amount where they do not fix a term of imprisonment.

More information

View our Council Tax recovery policy