Council Tax arrears and debt recovery
If you’re struggling to pay your Council Tax, contact us as soon as possible as we may be able to spread your payments out over a longer time. You should only agree to payments you can manage.
You may qualify for a discount or exemption on your Council Tax Bill.
We will send text messages, emails and recorded voice messages to you if your Council Tax account falls in to arrears.
It is important that you keep us up to date with your current contact details. Inform us of changes to your contact details
Unable to keep up with your Council Tax payments
If you are having difficulties paying Council Tax, it is important that you tell a debt advice agency. They might be able to help by granting you breathing space.
Breathing space gives you time to go through your finances and agree a payment plan. It can be used for all your debts, including debts to other organisations such as banks and credit cards, as well as other debts you may owe to us.
You can't apply for breathing space directly with us, you will need to contact a debt advice agency. Find out more about how to apply for breathing space
Further advice about managing debt can be found at Money Advice Service
If you don’t pay, recovery action will be taken against you.
You will receive a reminder if you failed to pay your instalments in accordance with the original demand. You are required to pay the amount outstanding to bring your account up to date within the next 7 days. Failure to do so will result in the full balance becoming due after 14 days.
If you have any problems paying or you are not liable for this debt than you must contact us without delay using our Council Tax contact form
If you have made payment to bring your account up to date in the 5 days leading up to you receiving your reminder this will be reflected in your account. Check your My Account to ensure everything is up to date.
To avoid receiving future reminders, consider setting up a Direct Debit
You will receive a final notice if you've failed to pay your instalments in accordance with your original demand notice. Your right to instalments will be withdrawn and you will be required to pay the balance of your account within 7 days. Alternatively, you can contact the council to arrange to pay by instalments by Direct Debit
If you have any problems paying or you are not liable for this debt then you must contact us without delay
You will receive a summons if you fail to make payments in accordance with the reminder notice. You will lose your right to pay by instalments and you'll need to pay the whole balance of your account plus summons costs before the hearing date.
If you're unable to pay the summons in full please contact the Council Tax team using the Council Tax contact form to discuss the possibility of agreeing a short term special arrangement.
If you feel that the summons is incorrect, do not wait until the court date, contact us without delay
If you do not pay the full balance on the summons including the court costs before the hearing date a liability order will be applied for at court. If a liability order is granted at court, additional costs will be added to your account.
You do not need to attend court unless you dispute the councils claim that you are liable.
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, you must not attend Willesden Magistrate Court as you will not be permitted access to the building.
If you want to appear at the hearing, this will be by appointment only at a designated council location with the hearing taking place remotely.
If you don’t pay within the time given, we’ll proceed to court and ask the Magistrate to grant a Liability Order. The court will make a Liability Order if it is satisfied that you owe the Council Tax shown on the summons. It gives us the authority to take action and collect the money you owe including costs.
Even if you decide not to attend court, you should speak to us or, if you prefer, your local Citizens Advice
We’ll try to come to a reasonable arrangement with you for payment, but we can’t do that unless you contact us.
If you ignore the Liability Order
If you can’t agree to a payment arrangement (or if you make arrangements to pay but don’t), we will take further action to get the money you owe.
Deductions from wages
We can order your employer to deduct a regular amount from your wages toward your unpaid Council Tax. If this means you’re struggling to pay your bills, talk to us as we may be willing to accept smaller payments.
Deductions from benefits
We can apply to have money deducted from your benefits, like Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA), Income Support, Pension Credit (Guaranteed Credit), Employment Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Universal Credit.
They’re also called enforcement agents and any paperwork you receive from a bailiff will use this term.
We’ll send bailiffs to your home to collect the money you owe or goods to the value of the money you owe.
Once we pass your debt to a bailiff there will be additional costs to you from them!
This is how it works:
- the bailiff will send you a letter seven days before they intend to visit your home. At this stage you can contact them and arrange to make re-payments (this maybe the last chance you get to do this)
- if they don’t hear from you they will visit you home. At this stage there are two possible outcomes:
- they’ll seize your goods to cover the cost of the money you owe plus their costs
- you make cash payment and commit to a re-payment plan
- if you don’t make the agreed re-payments, they will return to your home and seize your goods
Charging order and order of sale
We can place a charging order to secure the debt against your home or any property you own. If you fail to make re-payments as agreed, we can apply to the court for an order of sale to force your home and property to be sold.
We can make you bankrupt, if you do not pay the money you owe.
You could go to prison for not paying your Council Tax.
If the bailiff has been unable to remove enough goods to pay for your debt, or if we think other recovery options are inappropriate, we can ask the Magistrates’ Court to send you a summons to attend a committal hearing.
This means that we ask the court to decide whether you should go to prison for not paying your Council Tax.
At the hearing, our representative will tell the Magistrates that a Liability Order has been granted and give a history of your debt.
The Magistrates will then ask you why you have not paid your Council Tax bill and will decide whether you have deliberately refused to pay. This is known as wilful refusal or culpable neglect.
You will be asked questions about your income and expenditure. This is called a ‘means enquiry’. It helps the court decide whether you are able to pay and if so, what you could afford to pay. If they decide that you have been financially able to pay your Council Tax, but failed to do so, then you may be found in culpable neglect.
If the court does decide this, it can make these orders against you:
Send you to prison for a period of not more than 3 months.
- send you to prison for a period of not more than three months but postpone this on condition that you make a payment or regular payments
- refuse to send you to prison
- write off all or part of the arrears
If you have not paid the total sum due to before the date of the hearing and you fail to appear before the court, a warrant may be issued for your arrest.
The longer you ignore a debt problem, the worse the situation becomes.