Non-payment of Council Tax

What happens if you don't pay your Council Tax?

Please contact us immediately for advice and to discuss an alternative arrangement if you are unable to pay an amount that is due, or you are experiencing financial difficulties.

Free impartial advice

If you need advice about how you can take control of your debts and finances, including Council Tax, please contact Citizens Advice Eastleigh and get advice as early as possible.

Citizens Advice help lots of people with debt issues everyday. They provide free, confidential and impartial advice. They are an independent charity and part of the Citizens Advice network across England and Wales.

Phone: 0808 278 7862

Our process

Council Tax is normally payable over 10 monthly instalments (the number of instalments is reduced if the demand is issued after 30 April). The instalments required are shown on your bill and payment for each instalment must reach us on or before the dates shown on the bill. Late payment or failure to pay instalments will result in recovery action being taken in the following order: 

First reminder

If an instalment is not received by the due date, a reminder notice will be issued. If it remains unpaid after seven days, the remainder of the year's charge must be paid in full. Failure to pay the whole amount will result in the issue of a summons.

Second reminder

If the instalment(s) on the first reminder are paid within the seven days limit, you may continue to pay under the original instalment scheme. If a further instalment is not received by the due date, another reminder notice will be sent. If the instalment(s) remain unpaid after seven days, the remainder of the year's charge must be paid in full. Failure to pay the whole amount will result in the issue of a summons.

Final notice

If the instalment on the second reminder is paid within the seven days limit, you may again continue to pay under the original instalment scheme. If a further instalment is not received by the due date you will lose the right to pay by instalments and a final notice for the remainder of the year's charge will be sent.  Failure to pay the whole amount will result in the issue of a summons.  

Issue of a summons

A summons will be issued for the balance outstanding for the remainder of the year plus costs. If these amounts are not paid in full, we will apply to the Magistrates' Court for a liability order. A liability order gives us the power to request details of your income and obtain payment of the outstanding debt and costs in several ways including:

    • Attachment of earnings: deductions from your wage/salary vary from 3% to 17% depending on your take-home pay and are made in accordance with a scale set by the Government. Your employer is entitled to make an additional deduction for administering this order. The guidance for employers booklet provides advice on the order and how deductions are to be calculated and deducted
    • Deductions from benefits: if you are in receipt of either specific state benefits/pensions, and you do not already have an Attachment of Benefit Order, we will advise the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and deductions will be made directly from your benefit
    • Bankruptcy: if your outstanding debt totals £750 or more and you own your property, we may petition the court to make you bankrupt. This action will affect your ability to obtain credit and may result in the loss of your home. More information
    • Removal of goods or property:  your debt may be passed to our Civil Enforcement Agents (see below) who are authorised to either make a suitable payment arrangement with you or to seize goods or possessions up to the value of the amount owed and sell them to settle the debt. This will incur additional costs as follows:

Council Tax summons frequently asked questions

You should pay the amount on the summons in full before the date of the court hearing, including the summons court costs of £95. Make sure you allow enough time for the payment to reach us before the hearing date.

Whilst you have lost the right to pay your Council Tax in instalments, we may still be able to set a payment arrangement with you. Please contact us before the court date to discuss. 

You have a right to go to the court, however the Magistrate will only hear from you if you have a valid defence against the granting of a liability order. Please note that being unable to pay is not a valid defence. You do not need to attend the hearing if you do not dispute that you owe the amount shown on the summons and the case will go ahead even if you do not attend the hearing. A list of the main valid defences against the granting of a liability order is below:

  • The Council Tax has not been properly set
  • The Council Tax has not been billed correctly 
  • The amount billed has been paid
  • There is no entry in the Valuation List
  • The debt is being recovered more than six years after it became due
  • Bankruptcy proceedings have commenced
  • An administration order has been made through the County Court Act 1984.

If you plan to attend the hearing, please contact us in advance by emailing or phoning 023 8068 8470.

If you are on a low income you may be able to get a reduction on your bill. This is known as Council Tax Support (CTS) and is not normally backdated so if you think you may qualify, you must apply now. Even if you make an application for CTS, we will still request the Magistrates to grant a liability order at the court hearing, however we may agree to hold any further action pending the outcome of the application for CTS.

Council Tax is payable in instalments which are shown on your bill. If you do not pay your instalments by the due date a reminder is issued. If you do not bring the instalments up to date within seven days of the due date, the whole amount outstanding becomes due. If you bring the instalments up to date but fall behind again, a further reminder will be issued. If the instalments fall behind for a third time, the full amount outstanding becomes due. If a final notice is issued to you and the full balance of your Council Tax is not paid within seven days we will start legal action in the Magistrates' Court unless you contact us to discuss a payment arrangement.

Costs of £95 are charged when the summons is issued. This covers both the court and our costs in recovering the debt. This amount must be paid in addition to the Council Tax due.

The banding of property for Council Tax is undertaken by the Valuation Office Agency, a part of HMRC.

You can appeal your Council Tax banding. You must not stop making payments whilst you are waiting for any appeal to be settled. 

A liability order is a statement from the Magistrates' Court that you owe an amount of Council Tax and costs. It gives us additional powers to enforce the debt such as making deductions from your wages or other benefits, or instruct Civil Enforcement Agents to collect the debt on our behalf which may incur further costs.

Fees due at each stage

  • Compliance: £75
  • Enforcement: £235 plus 7.5% of the debt amount which exceeds £1,500
  • Sale Stage: £110 plus 7.5% of the debt amount exceeding £1,500

Committal to prison

After all other recovery options have been tried and full payment of the outstanding arrears has not been paid, we will apply to the Court for the debtor to be sent to prison for a period of up to 90 days.  This action will result in substantial costs being added to your outstanding charge.

Debt Recovery

We ensure that all income due to the Council is collected in an economical, efficient and cost effective manner in the interest of our customers and businesses. Read our Debt Recovery Policy

More information about what happens if you don't pay your Council Tax 

Council Tax and Freeman on the Land explained

Being a ‘freeman’ does not exempt any person from paying Council Tax.  

Find out more

Civil Enforcement Agents

We have authorised the following as Civil Enforcement Agents to take action to recover debts for Council Tax and Non Domestic Rates:

Ross & Roberts
Tel: 0870 167 0707
Website: Ross & Roberts 

Goodwillie & Corcoran
Tel: 020 8466 9111
Website: Goodwillie & Corcoran 

Tel: 01706 833023
Website: Marston Holdings



Customers  who have received a Final Notice from the Council via letter, followed up by telephone calls, may be contacted by Rossendales, who offer the opportunity to pay outstanding instalments direct to them. This service is not a scam - your debt is not with Rossendales, there are no additional fees payable and we are happy to receive your payment via Rossendales.  

Information on the action that will be taken by Civil Enforcement Agents

These agencies are members of the Civil Enforcement Association, CIVEA which is independently funded association formed to represent all private certificated bailiffs in England and Wales.

They are also authorised to execute Warrants of Arrest in regards to action taken under Committal to Prison.

Action taken will incur additional costs. These are fixed costs for each stage of the enforcement process and have been set in legislation.