What happens if I don’t pay my council tax?

Your council tax bill tells you how much you have to pay for the year, and the dates you have to pay it.

The vast majority of people pay on time, mostly using a direct debit.

You need to register your council tax account in My Account to set up direct debit online.

Set up direct debit in My Account

More ways to pay

Help if you’re having problems

If you’re having problems paying, we’d like to help before you face any recovery action. So, please get in touch as soon as you can.

Contact us

Here’s more on help paying.

Reminders and final notices

If you haven’t contacted us about a problem paying your bill, and you miss an instalment, we’ll ask you to bring your account up to date. 

If you don't pay your instalments by the dates they are due, we will send you a reminder notice, asking for payment in seven days.

If you pay the amount you owe but fall behind with your instalments again we will send a second reminder. This will give you seven days to bring your instalments up to date. 

We can only send two reminder notices in any one financial year.

So if you pay late a third time you will be sent a final notice for the full amount for the rest of the year, and you will lose your right to pay in instalments.

If you’ve received a final notice and want to pay (and avoid costs), please use the link below.

Pay now

Set up a direct debit for next year, see Ways to pay.

Court action

If you don’t pay after we’ve sent a final notice, we’ll apply to the Magistrates’ Court for a summons to be issued against you for the full amount of council tax you owe. This costs us £86 which we’ll add to the amount you owe.

The summons tells you the total amount of council tax you owe, the period it refers to, and the costs you have to pay.

If you’ve received a summons and want to pay, please use the link below.

Pay now

Set up a direct debit for next year, see Ways to pay.

Need help paying?

If you’re struggling to pay your council tax or facing financial difficulties, we’d like to help you. Please contact us before the court date. Once a summons has been issued, there are limited options for making payment arrangements.

If you don’t contact us, we’ll ask the court to issue a liability order. This gives us authority to take recovery action. We don’t want to do that, so please get in touch.

Recovery action

A liability order from court allows us to choose any of the following methods to recover the money you owe.

  • Attachment to benefits. We can ask the DWP to make deductions from your Jobseekers’ Allowance, Income Support, Employment Support Allowance, Universal Credit or Pension Credit.
  • Attachment to earnings. We can order your employer to make deductions from your wages.
  • Bailiffs – We can start formal enforcement action by instructing an enforcement agent.
  • A charging order on your property - We could force you to sell your property to pay for your arrears.
  • Bankruptcy – we can apply to make you bankrupt.
  • Prison – we can apply to the Magistrates’ Court for you to be sent to prison.

Attachment to benefits

If you’re receiving benefits, we can ask the Department for Work and Pensions to send us part of the money you receive in benefits.

The amount deducted is £3.40 a week for Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance.

For contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance, one third of your allowance is deducted.

For income-based Employment and Support Allowance, five per cent of your allowance is duducted.

Deductions continue until the amount on the liability order is fully paid, or until your benefit stops for any reason.

Attachment to earnings

If you’re employed, we can ‘attach to your earnings’. This means that we will ask your employer to take a percentage of your net earnings from your salary and pay it directly to us.

The tables show these percentages, which are set by the government and are not negotiable.

Deduction rates

Weekly earnings

Monthly earnings

Amount taken

Up to £75

Up to £300

0%

£75 to £135

£300 to £550

3%

£135 to £185

£550 to £740

5%

£185 to £225

£740 to £900

7%

£225 to £335

£900 to £1,420

12%

£335 to £505

£1,420 to £2,020

17%

Over £505

Over £2,020

17% on the first £505 (weekly) or £2,020 (monthly) then 50% on the rest

Your employer can also deduct an extra £1 each time to cover their administrative costs.

The deductions will continue until the amount on the liability order is paid.

If you change jobs, or stop working, you must tell the council within 14 days.

Enforcement agents

Enforcement agents used to be known as bailiffs.

If you don’t contact us to arrange payment after a liability order has been granted by the court, we may pass your debt to enforcement agents. You’ll then have to pay the enforcement agents’ fees, as well as the council tax you owe.

Enforcement agents will collect the debt you owe. This may include taking and selling your goods. The agent will send you a letter asking you to pay the money you owe immediately. If you don’t reply or make a payment arrangement, they will visit your property to take your goods. They can take goods up to the value of the money you owe, including their costs. The goods will then be sold at public auction.

Under the new legislation if your debt has been passed to an enforcement agent, you will incur the following fixed fees:

  • compliance stage (when the enforcement agent writes to you) – £75
  • enforcement stage (if the enforcement agent visits) – £235 plus 7.5% on debts over £1,500
  • sale or disposal stage – £110 plus 7.5% on debts over £1,500

The enforcement agents have the right to come into your property to remove goods as long as they do not use force to get in. The enforcement agents are not allowed to break open a door but may go in if a door is open or can be opened without using force.

The enforcement agents can take any goods that you own. If you pay your debt, including all costs, before any goods are taken or sold, the seizure or sale will be stopped.

The enforcement agent may enter into a controlled-goods agreement, where the agent makes a list of your possessions equal in value to your debt. If your possessions are subject to a controlled-goods agreemen, you cannot dispose or sell them without the enforcement agent’s permission.

The enforcement agent will come to your property with a van and remove any of your furniture or belongings (these can include cars and bikes). They will put them in secure storage before they are sold at a public auction.

If the enforcement agent can’t collect the debt, or there aren’t enough goods to remove, they will return the liability order to us. We will then start proceedings for bankruptcy or for your committal to prison.

If you don’t think that the enforcement agent has followed the above process, you should contact us (see below).

Bankruptcy and liquidation

If you, (or for business rates - your company), owe more than £750, and you have been summonsed, we may start bankruptcy (or for business rates - liquidation) proceedings against you.

First, we will send you a statutory demand which will give you 21 days to pay us the full amount. Please contact us immediately.

If you don’t settle the statutory demand, we’ll present a petition for bankruptcy or liquidation in the High Court.

If we issue a bankruptcy order against you, this will mean:

  • the official receiver will investigate your affairs
  • your bank accounts will be frozen
  • you will lose your credit rating and be blacklisted from getting any more credit
  • you could be forced to sell your home to pay your debts.

If you’re made bankrupt, the official receiver will control your spending for three years.

  • If a liquidation order is granted against your company, this will mean:
  • you will not be allowed to be a company director
  • your company will be wound up by the official receiver
  • your personal bank accounts could be frozen
  • you could be forced to sell your home.

Please do not ignore the statutory demand.

Prison

If you don’t pay your council tax, the most serious thing that could happen is that you could go to prison.

If you don’t pay your council tax, we will apply to the magistrates court for a committal summons. This is the first stage towards you possibly going to prison.

If you receive a committal summons, you should contact us immediately and get legal advice or help from a solicitor, your local law centre or Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

If you pay in full, you do not need to go to court.

If you do not pay in full, you must go to the court shown on the summons.

The court will assess your income and spending to decide whether you should go to prison. You must bring evidence of your income and spending to court if possible. If you do not go to the hearing, the court will issue a warrant for your immediate arrest. If you are arrested, you will be taken into custody where you will have to wait for your hearing.

These are very serious matters. Do not ignore the committal summons. Please contact us immediately. If you don’t, you could go to prison for up to three months.

Contact us

  • Call  020 8753 6681 Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (Our busiest times are all day Monday and between 12noon and 2pm on other weekdays. If you can, please try to avoid ringing us at these times.)
  • email  counciltax@lbhf.gov.uk
  • Visit h&f Direct Centre 1st floor Town Hall Extension, King Street, London, W6 9JU – open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, by appointment only Book an appointment
Advertisement