Council tax arrears - what should I do?


Council tax payments are generally due in instalments made over 10 months. If you miss an instalment, your local council will send you a reminder notice giving you seven days to bring your payments up to date.

If you still do not pay within this period you may be asked to pay the full outstanding balance of your council tax owing. This may also occur if you receive a second reminder and fall behind with your payments again. If this occurs, you need to pay the balance in order to avoid the council taking legal action against you to recover the amount.

If you have outstanding council tax that you are struggling to deal with, we will recommend the best course of legal action for you.

Preventing legal action first

As soon as you know that your financial situation is such that you are not going to be able to meet your council tax repayment obligations you should contact your local council to discuss the situation.

Your local council may be able to:

  • Reduce the amount you have to pay
  • Agree a different timetable for you to make repayments
  • See if you qualify for a discount or for Council Tax Benefit

If you do not contact your local council to explain the situation and try to reach a way of resolving the issue, your local council may commence legal action against you. It is much better to avoid the legal action in the first place than to try to fix it once it has started.

Legal action over unpaid council tax

Your local council can ask the Magistrates’ Court for a Liability Order. This Order is a demand for you to pay the full amount outstanding.
You will usually also be demanded to pay the legal costs of the council in recovering the money through this legal action. Legal costs can be quite substantial and are another reason as to why you should try to avoid legal action in the first place.

At court, you will be given the opportunity to explain why you are not liable for the debt or to try to reach an agreement with the council on how you will pay the debt.

If you ignore the Liability Order, your council can take enforcement action against you in order to recover the debt. This is usually done through deductions from your wage or benefits. They can also send bailiffs or consider bankruptcy proceedings or charging orders.

Before the situation escalates to this point you should obtain legal advice from a solicitor. A solicitor can advise you on your legal position and what you should do.

For general information on council tax, visit our further information page.

Are you in dispute over unpaid council tax? Contact Law can put you in touch with a housing specialist solicitor to represent you if necessary. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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