If you are having problems paying your council bills, you should let us know as soon as possible. As soon as you realise you are struggling to pay, contact us on 01243 534501 to discuss the options available to you.

What happens if I don't pay?

If you do not contact us, and do not make payment, action will be taken to recover any money outstanding. This will involve the issue of a reminder and summons and the addition of costs. Further non-payment can result in the use of enforcement agents (formerly known as bailiffs), an attachment to your earnings and certain benefits, an application for bankruptcy or a charging order on your home, and ultimately committal to prison.

The information below has been produced to try and help you understand the process by which council tax arrears will be recovered and to offer practical advice on what to do at each stage of the recovery process.

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

Paying your council tax by direct debit ensures that your payments are made on time every month. To set up a direct debit go to My Council Tax.

If council tax instalments are not paid as they become due the following actions will be taken:

A first reminder

You will be sent a first reminder notice requiring the account be brought up to date within the next 7 days.

If you do not pay the amount shown on your notice within 7 days, a final notice will be issued and your right to pay by instalments will be lost and the full balance for the year will become due.

A second reminder

If, after receiving a first reminder notice, your instalments once again fall into arrears, you will be sent a second reminder notice. This will be the last reminder that you receive during the council tax year.

Final notice

A final notice will be issued if your account is not bought up to date and maintained after a reminder or second reminder is issued. The full balance then becomes due within 7 days.  

Court summons

When a full years balance payment has been requested and you do not pay, a summons for non-payment is requested from the magistrates court.

The cost of raising the summons is added to your bill. For further details please refer to the 'I have received a council tax summons section'.

If you pay the full amount of the summons, including costs, before the hearing date, you do not have to attend court and the case against you will be withdrawn.

If you make a payment arrangement including summons and liability order costs prior to the court hearing you do not need to attend court, however the magistrate will be asked to grant a liability order to secure the debt.

Provided you keep to the payment arrangement no further recovery action is taken.

Liability order

If you do not pay the total amount due including costs or make an arrangement the council will request a liability order at the court hearing.

The liability order gives the council powers to recover the outstanding debt using the methods listed below:

  • Automatic deduction from your earnings
  • Automatic deductions from certain types of benefits
  • A visit by an enforcement agent who can seize certain goods that you own and sell them at auction. Please note substantial costs will be incurred for any enforcement agent visit.
  • An application for bankruptcy or liquidation
  • Placing a charging order on your property, which means we could force its sale to pay your council tax arrears, or the arrears will be paid out of the amount you get for any future sale 
  • An application for your committal to prison if we have not been able to collect the money in any other way. At the hearing the magistrates will decide whether you have deliberately refused or neglected to pay or what other reasons there may have been for non-payment, and this will affect their decision

A notice of liability order will be sent to you after the court hearing.

The notice also includes an income and expenditure questionnaire for you to complete. You have a legal duty to complete this form and return it within 14 days. If you fail to supply this information or if you provide false information you will be committing a criminal offence and could be prosecuted. Your income and expenditure is needed to help the taxation staff to make a payment arrangement that takes into account your ability to pay

Please do not delay in making a payment arrangement or returning the form with your employment or benefit details.

I have received a council tax reminder

Why has this been sent to me?

If you have not paid your council tax by the due date shown on the bill, a reminder will be sent. The purpose of the reminder is to notify you that your account must be brought up to date. Information on the reminder will also tell you about the actions which can be taken if the arrears are not paid.

What do I do now?

  • If you have paid the arrears since the date of issue shown on the reminder you do not need to any further action.
  • You may be able to set up a direct debit, this is the most convenient way to pay your council tax and you can choose to pay over 10 or 12 months on the 1st , 8th,  15th, 25th or 28th . To set  up a direct debit go to My council tax.
  • If you think you have already paid the amount please check that it has been taken out of your bank account. If your payment has left your bank account please contact us with the details of how and when you made your payment and the account information. If you have paid by cash you will need to provide a receipt as proof of payment.
  • Pay your outstanding arrears in any of the following ways by visiting pay your council tax.

What happens if I have an outstanding claim for council tax reduction?

You still need to pay your current instalments while your claim is being considered. This is because your claim may not be successful. If you would like to check the progress of your claim please contact the benefits office on 01243 534509.

What should I do if I can't pay?

  • Contact us at the earliest opportunity. Don't wait until you receive a summons to court, as this will add additional costs to your account. You may be able to pay over a longer period and at different intervals without the need for further action.
  • If specific payment terms can't be agreed then recovery action will continue. This means that a summons will be issued and liability order will be obtained which allows the council to take further action if payments are not made or if you default on any agreement to pay including costs. If further action is necessary, as long as you keep in contact, the taxation team will work with you to find a solution.
I have received a council tax summons

Why has this been sent to me?

A liability order is granted to Chichester District Council by a magistrate after a summons has been sent to you for non-payment of your council tax. It gives the council the legal power to take further action to recover the amount owed. The actions that can be taken to recover the unpaid amount are included below. The liability order questionnaire allows the council to obtain information from you about your income and expenditure.

What do I do now?

  • If you have paid the outstanding amount in full including the summons and liability order costs since this was received you need take no further action
  • If you think you have already paid the amount by debit card, on-line banking, using the payment line or direct debit, please check that the amount has been taken out of your bank account. If your payment has been sent please contact us on 01243 534501 with the details of how and when you made your payment and the account information
  • If you have paid by cash you will need to provide a receipt as proof of payment
  • Pay the outstanding balance including costs in any of the following ways.
  • For any other help or advice please contact the taxation team by telephoning 01243 534501

What happens if I have an outstanding claim for council tax reduction?

You still need to pay your current instalments while your claim is being considered. This is because your claim may not be successful. If you would like to check the progress of your claim please contact the benefits office on 01243 534509.


What should I do if I can't pay?

  • Contact us at the earliest opportunity to discuss your options. You may be able to make a payment arrangement including summons and liability order costs at a frequency that suits your needs and over a longer period of time.
  • You must complete the income and expenditure form (request for information). You have a legal duty to complete this form and return it within 14 days. If you fail to supply this information or if you provide false information you will be committing a criminal offence and could be prosecuted. Your income and expenditure is needed to help the taxation  staff to make a payment arrangement that takes into account your ability to pay
  • Have you considered claiming council tax reduction if you are on a low income? If you would like an estimate of how much you might qualify for, please go to Benefit calculator
  • If specific payment terms can't be agreed then recovery action will continue. This means that the following options may be used to clear your debts:
    • automatic deduction from your earnings
    • automatic deductions from certain types of benefits
    • a visit by an enforcement agent who can seize certain goods that you own and sell them at auction. Please note substantial costs will be incurred for any enforcement agent visit.
    • an application for bankruptcy or liquidation
    • an application for your committal to prison If we have not been able to collect the money in any other way. At the hearing the magistrates will decide whether you have deliberately refused or neglected to pay or what other reasons there may have been for non-payment, and this will affect their decision

    • placing a charging order on your property, which means we could force its sale to pay your council tax arrears, or the arrears will be paid out of the amount you get for any future sale 
Defences against a liability order

A liability order

A liability order is granted to Chichester District Council by a magistrates court after a summons has been sent to you for non-payment of your council tax and gives the council the legal power to take further action to recover the outstanding council tax. The actions that can be taken to recover the unpaid amount are included in this section.

What should I do now?

Please contact the taxation office on 01243 534501 to make an arrangement to pay,  you may be able to make a payment arrangement including summons and liability order costs at a frequency that suits your needs and over a longer period of time.

You don't need to go to the court hearing unless you have a legal defence against the issue of a liability order. We are able to deal with any other concerns or queries with you directly. If you are thinking about going to court, please contact us first to see if we can help you.

Please look at the following list of defences, and if you think any one of these apply in your case, you can attend court on the date given on the summons and ask to speak to the magistrate. You should always contact the taxation office on 01243 534501 prior to the court date to discuss your case - for example, if your defence is that you have paid your council tax, staff may be able to trace any missing payments or advise you further without any need to attend court.

Defences

  • The property does not appear in the valuation list as a dwelling for which council tax can be charged for the period in question
  • The council tax has not been properly set by the council
  • The council tax has not been demanded properly: It has not been demanded properly if;
    • you have not been given 14 days notice on your bill of any new instalments
    • you have not been sent a reminder giving you 7 days to bring your account up to date
    • you have not been sent a summons after the full balance became payable - Please note Chichester District Council must show that a notice has been sent by post, not that a taxpayer has received it
  • The amount outstanding has been paid - if you think the amount has been paid please contact the council tax office with the details of when and where you made your payment, how the payment was made with details of your bank account where necessary. A receipt must support any cash payments.
  • This is the first time you have been summoned to court and more than six years have passed since your first payment became due
  • The council did not serve you with a bill for payment as soon as they were able to in accordance with council tax legislation
  • The sum that you owe is for a penalty which is the subject of appeal or arbitration
  • Bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings have commenced

If none of the above apply and further action is necessary the taxation team will always work with you to find the best solution to pay what you owe. If specific payment terms cannot be agreed then recovery action will continue.

This means that the following options may be used to clear your debts once the liability order has been obtained:

  • automatic deduction from your earnings
  • automatic deductions from certain types of benefits
  • a visit by an enforcement agent who can seize certain goods that you own and sell them at auction. Please note further costs will be incurred for any enforcement action
  • an application for bankruptcy or liquidation
  • placing a charging order on your property, which means we could force its sale to pay your council tax arrears, or the arrears will be paid out of the amount you get for any future sale 
  • an application for your committal to prison If we have not been able to collect the money in any other way. At the hearing the magistrates will decide whether you have deliberately refused or neglected to pay or what other reasons there may have been for non-payment, and this will affect their decision
I have received a council tax liability order information form

Why has this been sent to me?

A liability order is granted to Chichester District Council by a magistrate after a summons has been sent to you for non-payment of your council tax. It gives the council the legal power to take further action to recover the amount owed. The actions that can be taken to recover the unpaid amount are included below. The liability order questionnaire allows the council to obtain information from you about your income and expenditure.

What do I do now?

  • If you have paid the outstanding amount in full including the summons and liability order costs since this was received you need take no further action
  • If you think you have already paid the amount by debit card, on-line banking, using the payment line or direct debit, please check that the amount has been taken out of your bank account. If your payment has been sent please contact us on 01243 534501 with the details of how and when you made your payment and the account information
  • If you have paid by cash you will need to provide a receipt as proof of payment
  • Pay the outstanding balance including costs in any of the following ways
  • For any other help or advice please contact the taxation team by telephoning 01243 534501

What happens if I have an outstanding claim for council tax reduction?

You still need to pay your current instalments while your claim is being considered. This is because your claim may not be successful. If you would like to check the progress of your claim please contact the benefits office on 01243 534509


What should I do if I can't pay?

  • Contact us at the earliest opportunity to discuss your options. You may be able to make a payment arrangement including summons and liability order costs at a frequency that suits your needs and over a longer period of time.
  • You must complete the income and expenditure form (request for information). You have a legal duty to complete this form and return it within 14 days. If you fail to supply this information or if you provide false information you will be committing a criminal offence and could be prosecuted. Your income and expenditure is needed to help the taxation  staff to make a payment arrangement that takes into account your ability to pay.
  • Have you considered claiming council tax reduction if you are on a low income? If you would like an estimate of how much you might qualify for, please use the benefit calculator.
  • If specific payment terms can't be agreed then recovery action will continue. This means that the following options may be used to clear your debts:
    • Automatic deduction from your earnings
    • Automatic deductions from certain types of benefits
    • A visit by an enforcement agent who can seize certain goods that you own and sell them at auction. Please note substantial costs will be incurred for any enforcement agent visit.
    • An application for bankruptcy or liquidation
    • Placing a charging order on your property, which means we could force its sale to pay your council tax arrears, or the arrears will be paid out of the amount you get for any future sale 
My debt has been passed to an enforcement agent

Enforcement agents

We currently use both Rossendales  and Jacobs  enforcement agents to act on our behalf to collect council tax following the issue of a liability order.

From April 2014 new regulations and procedures for the way enforcement agents (formerly bailiffs) recover unpaid debts were introduced. The aim was to bring in new measures that ensure enforcement agents operate fairly for all concerned.

These measures include:

  • set fees
  • one set of rules for all debts
  • set hours of when an enforcement agent can visit
  • enforcement agents cannot enter a home when only children and/or vulnerable persons are present
  • enforcement agents must give seven days notice before they can visit unless the courts specify a shorter period

We can instruct an enforcement agent to collect an unpaid council tax debt from you if a liability order has been issued in your name. We won't do this if;

  • you have paid the outstanding balance in full including the summons and liability order costs
  • you return a request for information form and agree a repayment plan
  • we have made an attachment to your benefit/earnings

The stages that an enforcement agent will follow

Compliance stage

  • If we pass your unpaid debt to an enforcement agent, you will have to pay a fixed fee of £75 that is legally due. This will apply to each liability order we send them. The enforcement agent will send you a notice of enforcement (this is a statutory letter) and you will have seven days to pay in full. Please respond immediately. If you are unable to pay in full the enforcement agent may agree for the debt to be repaid by instalments. Any payments or offers of payment should be made to the enforcement agent (not us).
  • In addition to the notice of enforcement, the enforcement agent may also contact you by email, text, letter or phone. It is important that you do not ignore these as once it goes to the enforcement stage an enforcement agent will visit. Then you risk losing your belongings and you will be charged additional costs.

Enforcement stage

  • When an enforcement agent visits, you will have to pay a further fixed fee of £235 plus 7.5% for any balance due over £1,500. If you pay in full at this stage, you will still have to pay all of the costs. This will be at least £310 (£235 plus £75).
  • If you are unable to pay in full, the enforcement agent can either take control of your goods or enter into an acceptable agreement for you to repay the money owed - including their costs. This means they will make a list of your goods that cover the amount of your debt. If your goods are included on a controlled goods agreement you cannot dispose of or sell them without the enforcement agents permission.
  • There are certain goods that are exempt from being included on a controlled goods agreement. For example:
    • Items necessary for the basic domestic needs of the debtor and members of the debtor's household, such as clothes, cooker or fridge
    • Items or equipment which is necessary for personal use by the debtor or in the debtors employment, business, trade, study, up to the value of £1,350. Above this the exemption does not apply
    • Someone else's belongings, such as your partners computer

Sale or disposal stage

If you:

  • refuse to sign the controlled goods agreement the enforcement agent can take your goods whilst he/she is at your property
  • do not pay as agreed and you have signed a controlled goods agreement, the enforcement agent may enter your property, by force if necessary, to take the goods listed.

Either way, you will be charged a fixed fee of £110 plus 7.5% of any balance due. You may also have to pay additional costs for the sale of your goods.

It is an offence to stop an enforcement agent from carrying out his duties.

If the enforcement agent can't collect the council tax the debt will be returned to us to consider other recovery options to collect the outstanding debt. These options include bankruptcy, committal to prison or a charging order against your property.

National standards

The Ministry of Justice has issued national guidelines  for all enforcement agents that sets out what the Ministry of Justice, those in the industry and some major users regard as minimum standards. It does not replace local agreements, existing agency codes of practice or legislation.

Dealing with enforcement agents

  • Check the enforcement agent's identity. Enforcement agents from Rossendales Ltd & Jacobs work on behalf of the council to collect unpaid council tax. The enforcement agent can provide evidence to confirm that they are acting on behalf of the council.
  • Before you engage with an enforcement agent ask to see:
    • proof of their identity, such as a badge, ID card or enforcement agent certificate
    • which company they're from
    • a telephone contact number
    • details of the amount owed
  • You can ask for proof of an enforcement agent's identity and authorisation even if they've visited before - for example, ask them to put it through the letterbox or show it at the window.
  • All enforcement agents must have a certificate or they're with someone who does have a certificate.

Paying an enforcement agent

  • Make sure you get a receipt for any payment that you make.
  • If you can't pay all the money right away, speak to the enforcement agent about how you could pay the money back.
  • Offer to pay what you can afford in weekly or monthly payments. The enforcement agent doesn't have to accept your offer.
  • You'll have to prove that someone else's goods don't belong to you.

How to complain about an enforcement agent

You can complain about an enforcement agent if you think they've broken the rules, for
example if they:

  • threaten or harass you
  • try to break into your home
  • try to charge you incorrect fees
  • take goods belonging to someone else

You should first complain to the company the enforcement agent works;

 

Council tax attachment of earnings and benefits orders

Council tax attachment of earnings order

If after the liability order has been granted you do not contact us, or are unable to agree an arrangement to pay your arrears, the council may decide to issue an attachment of earnings order to take money directly from your pay.

Your employer will then set up payments to be made to the council on a daily, weekly or monthly basis in accordance with how you are paid, until the debt is settled. A copy of the order will be sent to you and your employer.

Once set up, an attachment will not be cancelled until the debt is paid in full or you cease employment.

The amount of money deducted depends on your net pay. This is your wages, salary (including any fees, bonus, commission or overtime pay) or any statutory sick pay, after the deduction of income tax, most national insurance contributions and superannuation contributions.

More detailed information for employers and employees can be found in the following guides.

Council tax attachment of benefits order

If after the liability order has been granted you do not contact us, or are unable to agree an arrangement to pay your arrears, the council may decide to issue an attachment of benefits order to the Department for Work and Pensions to make deductions from the following benefits:

  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Employment Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guaranteed Credit

The attachment of benefit can only happen if the person whose name appears on the council tax bill is in receipt of one of the above benefits. We will send you a copy of the order so you are aware that this is going to take place.

The Department for Work and Pensions will pay the deduction over to the council on a monthly basis until the debt is cleared.


 

Recovery fees

You should be aware that once a summons has been issued and liability order obtained, and your account is then passed to an enforcement agent for further action, additional costs will be added to your account. It is therefore in your interests to make contact as early as possible:

council tax recovery fees council tax recovery fees council tax recovery fees council tax recovery fees

Stage

Fee

Percentage Fee

Notice of enforcement (instruction to take action)

£75.00 per liability order

 

First visit by an enforcement agent

fixed fee of £235.00

7.5% of any balance owed over £1,500.00

Sale and removal of goods

fixed fee of £110.00

7.5% of any balance owed over £1,500.00 plus reasonable storage and auctioneers fees

The compliance fee of £75 will be payable for each liability order the moment a local authority refers it to the enforcement agency.


Do you qualify for a reduction or exemption?

Did you know if you live on your own you might be able to get a discount of 25%. Full council tax is based on 2 adults living in a property. If one of those adults or all adults in your home fall into a specific group of people, for example, students or carers, you may also get a discount or exemption. To find out more go to our council tax discounts and exemptions pages. 

Additional support

If you're on a low wage or receiving benefits, .

We are sympathetic to circumstances of genuine hardship and we will work with you to put arrangements in place that will take your financial circumstances into account. Please remember that council tax is a priority debt and should be paid before other non-priority debts.

Help or advice

You can get free help or advice on dealing with debts from: