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

Each year we send you a council tax bill which tells you how much you have to pay and the date your payment is due. In most cases, your council tax is payable in monthly instalments on the 1st day of each month unless you pay by direct debit where you are allowed a choice of 4 payment dates in the month.

If you get into payment difficulties and you can't afford to pay your instalments, contact us immediately to see if we can help you. We do not promise to be able to help everyone but the quicker you contact us, the better our chances of being able to help.

You can also seek free independent advice from the following organisations:

  • Money Advice Service, tel 0300 500 5000
  • Hackney Citizens Advice Bureau (reception), tel 020 8525 6350
  • Toynbee Hall, tel 020 7247 6943
  • National Debtline, tel 0808 808 4000
  • Step Change, tel 0800 138 1111
  • Hackney Credit Union, tel 020 7729 9218
  • Fair Finance, tel 020 8988 0627

You can also view our money matters and advice page for a range of help and advice on issues that might be affecting you.

Reminder notices

If you are paying each month after the date shown on your council tax bill, we will send you a reminder notice because your payment has not been paid on the date it is was due.

We are only required to send you one reminder notice so if you pay late on a further occasion, no further notice will be issued and you will be served with a court summons.

It is very important that you pay your council tax on or before the date it is due or you could get summoned to court for not doing so.

Court summons

You must pay the full amount shown on your reminder notice within 7 days from the date on the notice. If you pay the full amount as shown on the notice, your account will have been brought up to date and all future payments should be made on time.

If you do not pay the full amount on the notice or pay any further instalment later than the due date, a magistrates court summons will be issued for non-payment of council tax. The summons will be served with an explanatory leaflet, which provides information on defences to the issuing of a court liability order, but in truth there are very few.

The following are not defences against the issue of the order:

  • you do not have enough money to pay the council tax
  • you have applied for council tax benefit, or a discount, exemption or other reduction and are waiting to hear from the Council
  • you have an outstanding appeal with the Council or a tribunal

When the summons has been issued, we will apply to the magistrates court for a liability order for the full amount of council tax including the costs associated with serving the summons.

Unless the amount is paid in full before the hearing additional costs will be added for the court hearing. To save you any additional costs, you should pay the full amount shown on your summons before the court hearing

If you are not able to pay the full amount before the hearing, you should contact us to discuss if a repayment arrangement can be considered. You should be aware that the option to pay by instalments has already been lost and will not be reinstated at this stage. You may, however, avoid the need to attend the court hearing.

Liability order

Where you have not paid in full before the hearing or agreed repayment with us, we will apply to the magistrates court for a liability order. The liability order, once granted, gives us the power to implement a number of different actions and recovery remedies including:

  • requiring you, upon request, to provide information about your work or benefits
  • deduct money from your pay or benefits to settle your council tax
  • secure a 'charging order' on your property
  • apply for your bankruptcy where the debt is over a prescribed amount
  • instruct an enforcement agent to remove your goods and sell them to pay your council tax
  • apply for you to be put in prison for non-payment

Enforcement agents

Read the Ministry of Justice's national standards for taking control of goods [pdf, 47.81KB]

Where we have obtained a liability order and no arrangement has been agreed to repay the debt, the order will normally be passed to the Council's certificated enforcement agents who will visit you to enforce payment of the debt.

The enforcement agents will be instructed to remove any goods that you own and sell them at auction. If the liability order is passed to the enforcement agents, you will incur costs which can be considerable. Should enforcement reach this stage, the Council will not intervene in any action taken by the enforcement agents to enforce payment unless the circumstances are exceptional.

Committal to prison

If the enforcement agents are unsuccessful in enforcing the debt and receiving payment in full (including any costs), the liability order will be returned to the Council for further enforcement action.

At this stage, should any part of the debt remain unpaid, we will apply to the magistrates court for your committal to prison. The sentence for non-payment of council tax can be up to 90 days.

If you require any further information which is not covered here, please contact us on 020 8356 3990.

Page updated: 21/01/2019 13:29:29