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

Attachment to earnings or benefits
Enforcement agents and recovery action
Contact us

You must pay your council tax instalments on time. The dates we should receive them by are listed on your council tax bill.

If you have problems paying your instalment on time, you should contact us immediately.

If you do not pay your instalment when it is due, we will send you a reminder which says you must pay all the instalments you owe within seven days. If you do not, you will lose the right to pay by instalments and you will have to pay the full amount on your account immediately.

We will only send you two reminders a year.

If you do not pay the amount on the reminder, we will start legal proceedings to get back the money you owe us.

If we do this, you will have to pay a lot of extra costs. You will then receive a summons. We will apply to the West London Magistrates Court for a summons to be issued against you for the full amount of council tax you owe. This costs us £86.00 which we will add to the amount you owe.

If we still don't receive a payment, a liability order will be granted against you, this costs another £22.00. The total costs you now have to pay will be £108.00.

We will only agree payment arrangements with you after a summons has been issued if you pay by direct debit and send us your employment details.

Please do not ignore a summons because if you do not pay the council tax we will send an enforcement agent to collect the debt.

The enforcement agent may write to you and come to your property to collect the amount you owe or may take your property to sell at auction. The enforcement agent’s fees will be added to the amount you owe. More details on the potential costs of your council tax debt being sent to enforcement agents to collect can be found in the section on Enforcement agents and changes to recovery action below. If none of these methods are successful, we will apply to the court for you to go to prison.

We prefer not to do any of these things to collect the money you owe us because they will only increase the outstanding amount.

If you have financial difficulties, please contact us.

Do not ignore the notices we send you. It will only make matters worse.

Attachment to earnings or benefits

If you do not pay your council tax we will decide the best way to get it back from you.

If you are employed, we can ‘attach to your earnings’. This means that we will ask your employer to take council tax from your salary and pay it directly to us.

The amounts we take from your salary will depend on how much you earn, but will fall within the range of 3% to 50% of your net pay every month (after deductions).

Your employer will continue to take payments until you have paid what you owe.

By law, your employer must follow the Attachment to Earnings Order and may be prosecuted and fined up to £2,000 if they do not.

Once we issue the Attachment to Earnings Order, we can only stop proceedings once you have paid us all the council tax you owe.

If you are on Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance, we can apply to the Department for Work and Pensions for amounts to be taken from your benefit.

The highest amount that we can take from your income support is currently £3.70 a week.

We can only apply for these deductions if we feel that this is the most appropriate action to take.

You should contact us if you have any questions about attachment to earnings or benefit.

Enforcement agents and changes to recovery action

Why are enforcement agents (formerly known as bailiffs) involved in collecting council tax and business rates?

By law, we must collect both council tax and business rates and send a council tax / business rates bill (as appropriate) to each property in the borough. If this is not paid, a reminder notice is issued and if payment is still not forthcoming an application for a liability order including costs, will be made to the West London Magistrates Court.

The liability order gives us legal authority to take various routes to collect the debt, including:

  • the use of enforcement agents
  • bankruptcy / insolvency
  • where a case has been returned from enforcement agents, an application for committal to prison can be made.

If you do not contact us to arrange payment after a liability order has been granted, your debt will be passed to enforcement agents, then you will have to pay the council tax / business rates owed as well as the enforcement agents’ fees.

What do the enforcement agents do?

Enforcement agents 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 do not reply to their letter 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.

How much are the fees?

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

Can the enforcement agents force entry?

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 closed and can be opened without using force.

What goods can enforcement agents take?

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.

Taking goods

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

What happens to goods that are taken?

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.

What happens if the enforcement agent cannot collect the council tax / business rates?

If the enforcement agent cannot collect the debt and there are not enough goods to remove, the liability order is returned to us so that we can start bankruptcy / insolvency proceedings or commence proceedings for committal to prison.

What to do if you want to make a complaint

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

Advice agencies

You can get independent advice. See Struggling to pay your bill?

Bankruptcy and liquidation

If you, or your company, owe more than £750 in council tax or business rates, and you have been summonsed, we may start bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings against you.

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

If you, or your company, receive a statutory demand, you should contact us immediately.

If you do not settle the statutory demand, we will 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 are 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.

Do not ignore the statutory demand.


If you do not pay your council tax we will do all we can to collect the amount you owe us.

The most serious thing that could happen is that you go to prison .

What will happen?

If you do not 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 hearing

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 do not contact us immediately, you may 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  about council tax - counciltax@lbhf.gov.uk
  • in person 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