What happens if you don't pay your Council Tax

Council Tax

If you’re struggling to pay your Council Tax, contact us as soon as possible.

The longer you ignore a debt problem, the worse the situation becomes.

Council Tax payments are due on the first day of each month. If you don’t pay your instalment or your payment arrives late, you will receive a reminder.

If you continually pay late or do not pay at all, you will receive a final notice or court summons. When you have received either of these, you’ll lose your right to pay by instalments, and you’ll also need to pay the full balance for the year in one payment.

Set up a Direct Debit to avoid late payments. Paying by this method will stop the need for us to send you reminders, final notices or summonses, which will add to the amount you owe.

The Council Tax collection and recovery policy (word 375KB) describes how the council collects and gets back Council Tax it's owed.

If you receive a reminder for Council Tax, you have seven days to bring your instalments up to date. If you do not pay within seven days, you will lose your legal right to pay by instalments.

This means that:

  • we can send you a summons and you will be charged additional costs of up to £120
  • you will also need to pay the full balance for the year in one payment

If you do bring your account up to date but then fail to continue to pay your instalments as requested, we will send you a second reminder. You can only receive two reminders in any one year.

If you fall behind a third time, you will receive a final notice.

If you receive a final notice for Council Tax, you have lost your legal right to pay by instalments. The remaining balance is due in full. If you do not pay the full balance, we will send you a summons and you will be charged additional costs of up to £120.

If you receive a summons because you have not paid your Council Tax, costs of £112 will be added to your account. At the court hearing, we will ask the magistrates to issue a liability order against you and further costs of £8. The £8 will be added to your account after the hearing, making the total costs payable £120.

A liability order is the court’s agreement that you are liable to pay Council Tax at the property in question. Your ability to pay is not a matter that the magistrates will take into account when issuing a liability order. The liability order gives the Council extra powers to collect the money that you owe.

If you would like to make a payment arrangement to clear your outstanding Council Tax and any costs that you owe, please email revenue.services@ walthamforest.gov.uk.

Please note that the arrangement balance will include the costs of £8, which will be added to your account if the summons balance is not paid in full by the hearing date.

You have the right to attend the magistrates’ court. The hearing to which you have been summonsed to appear is known as a ‘bulk hearing’. This means that the Council has issued a large number of summonses for the same date and time as yours.

All of these will be dealt with at the same time. The court will only hear individual cases if you have a valid defence against the issue of a summons. It is for the courts to decide what is a valid defence.

To help you, we have listed the main defences:

  • the property named on your summons is not shown as an entry in the valuation list
  • the tax has not been properly set
  • the amount has not been demanded in accordance with the statutory provisions
  • the amount demanded has been paid in full
  • more than six years have elapsed since the day on which the sum became due
  • bankruptcy or winding up proceedings have been initiated.

In all other cases full payment must be made before the court hearing date. You also have the opportunity to accept the arrangement offered to you on the back of your summons. In all cases the liability order along with court costs will remain on your account and be included in any arrangement made. With any arrangement made you will be required to supply us with the name and address of your employer and your payee number or proof of your self employed status if applicable.

Please contact us at revenue.services@ walthamforest.gov.uk to discuss this further. If you do not make full payment including the costs, or you do not have a payment arrangement validated by your employer details or self employment status we will recover the debt in one of the following ways:

Bankruptcy proceedings

We will apply to the high court to have you made bankrupt. This is extremely serious action and will badly affect your ability to get credit for a long period of time. You will also incur substantial additional costs of between £1,500 and in excess of £40,000 and any properties or other assets you own can be sold to pay your debt.

Attachment of Earnings Order

If you are working we will instruct your employer to make deductions from your salary or wages. The amount taken will depend on your net earnings and are set out in regulations.

Bailiffs/enforcement agents

We will instruct a enforcement agents to collect the debt on our behalf. Any payments that you make will then have to be paid direct to the enforcement agents. The enforcement agents will charge fees of £75 when your account is passed to them. If you fail to make contact with them within 7 days an enforcement fee of £235 will be charged. If you owe more than £1,500 an additional 7.5 per cent will be charged. Some of your personal possessions can be sold at public auction. The money collected from the auction will be used to pay the enforcement fees and the Council Tax that you owe.

Schedule of Enforcement Fees (PDF 95KB)

Charging orders

If you own your property, we can apply to the county court for a charging order. Once the charging order is registered at the Land Registry Office, the property cannot be sold unless we are paid the debt plus interest and costs out of the net proceeds of the sale. The charging order will remain as a caution against the title of the property so long as the debt remains due. The Council may choose to force the sale of your property to pay the outstanding debt.

Job Seeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance

Please note that if you are in receipt of Income Support, Job Seeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance, deductions from your benefit may be applied for or our external agents may be instructed to collect the debt.

Committal proceedings

If we cannot collect the money that you owe by using one of the methods listed above, we will start committal proceedings against you. This means you will be summoned to attend the magistrates’ court and further costs will be added to your account. If the magistrates think that you have the money to pay but are deliberately not paying, they may decide to send you to prison for up to 90 days.

Council Tax Support Click to get info

If you're on a low income or get some state benefits, you could get help to pay for Council Tax with Council Tax Support.

Help with budgeting Click to get info

If you want advice and guidance on budgeting, there are many independent organisations that can help you to manage your money: 

  • The Money Advice Service can assist you to develop a personal spending plan and give advice on bank accounts and other financial products.

  • The National Debtline is a debt charity which offers free impartial advice with instant recommendations based on your circumstances.

  • Walthamstow Citizens Advice Bureau - Adviceline 0300 330 1175 - can help with debt problems and provide support to residents who are worried that they may be about to get into debt and want help to prevent it.