What happens if I don't pay?

We strongly recommend you take steps to pay each month on time such as via a direct debit.

If you don't pay your Council Tax, or pay late, you may be subject to recovery proceedings and your right to pay by instalments will end. Below are further details of what will happen if you fail to make your payments on time.

Step one: reminders

If you do not pay your Council Tax as shown in your bill we will send you a postal reminder notice. The notice will tell you the amount you have to pay to bring your account up to date. You must pay the amount shown on the notice within 7 days of the date on the reminder. If you still fail to make the payment, further action will be taken as outlined in step two.

If you pay the first reminder notice and fail to pay a further month’s instalment we will send you a second postal reminder notice. Again you must pay this within 7 days of the date shown on the reminder. If not, further action will be taken.

A maximum of 2 reminders in a tax year will be sent if you do not pay on time.  

Step two: final notice and cancellation of instalments

If you have paid two previous reminder notices but default for a third time, your right to pay by instalments will be cancelled and the balance of the account to the end of the tax year will be due for payment.

You must pay the amount shown on the notice within 7 days of the date shown on the notice. If you do not pay the amount due a summons will be issued.

Step three: summons

If you do not pay the Council Tax due on a reminder notice, you may be summonsed to appear before the Magistrates Court. This will incur additional costs of £105 to your council tax account. The summons will include a court hearing date. If the amount due (including the summons cost) is fully paid before the court hearing date then there will be no further action.

If you cannot pay the full amount due before the court hearing date, you do not need to attend court. We will ask the court to grant a Liability Order to recover the debt. This will add further costs of £25  to your council tax account taking the total costs to £130. However you can contact the council tax recovery team to set up a special payment arrangement to pay this. The Court cannot make payment terms with you.

Step four: Liability Order

A Liability Order is made if any balance stated on the summons remains unpaid at the hearing. You do not have to attend the court hearing. However, if you do attend please note that the following are not legal defences against the issue of a liability order:

  • you cannot afford to pay
  • the property should be exempt or a discount is due
  • you have an outstanding benefit claim

The council only has to prove to the court that notices have been sent to you, not that they have been received by you.

The Liability Order gives the council the right to recover the debt in any of the following ways:-

Enforcement agents

We can instruct an enforcement agent (formerly bailiff) to collect the debt. Action will be taken in stages, each of which incur further fees as shown below.

Recovery stage

Enforcement charges

Enforcement Notice


Enforcement Agent visit to take control of goods

£235 plus, if the debt is above £1,500, 7.5% of the amount above £1,500

Enforcement visit to remove goods

£110 plus, if the debt is above £1500, 7.5% of the amount above £1500

Where removal and sale takes place


Storage costs

Actual costs

Locksmiths costs

Actual costs

Any relevant Court Application Fees

Actual costs

Auctioneers costs where the sale is held on the auctioneers premises


Auctioneers Commission

Not exceeding 15% of the sum realised

Auctioneers out of pocket expenses

Actual costs

Reasonable Advertising costs

Actual costs

Internet auction costs

Actual costs

In some circumstances exceptional costs will apply

Agreed by Court


Our appointed enforcement agents are:

Newlyn: 01604 633 001

CDER Group (formerly known as Phoenix) : 0330 460 5295

Rundle's:  0800 0816 000

Equita:   01604 628 360

Attachment of Benefits

We can ask the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) to take money direct from any Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit and Universal Credit. We will make the request and the DWP will then contact you to confirm deductions are going to be made.

Attachment to Earnings

We can order your employer to take deductions from your wages or salary until the debt is repaid. Your employer is legally required to comply. They can charge you £1 each time they make a deduction. Employers can find out more about Attachment of Earnings in the Employers Guide to Attachment of Earnings.

Although the third party guide refers to cheque payment, you can also pay via Bacs.

Charging Order

We can apply to the County Court for a Charging Order if you own a property. When the property is sold we would receive the money you owe. This can only be applied if you owe £1000 or more.

Insolvency Proceedings

In extreme circumstances, we could commence bankruptcy proceeding against you or winding up proceeding against your company. This is a serious matter and you will have to give up any possessions of value or assets.

Committal to Prison

We can summons you back to the Magistrates' Court to attend a committal hearing. The Magistrates will examine your means (income and circumstances) now and at the time of the arrears. They may then decide that you should have paid the debt and could issue a warrant of commitment, placing you in prison for up to three months. They may suspend the imprisonment if they wish to make a payment arrangement with you (suspended order).
It would be wise to contact us before your arrears reach this stage. 

Debt and Money advice

If you have debt problems, need help with your finances or are struggling to pay your council tax, there is lots of free information and help available online, over the phone or face to face. Find out what help is available here.