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

 

Recovery

 

Each year we issue you with a council tax bill which tells you how much you need to pay and when. This is known as your instalment plan.

 

You need to pay your council tax on, or before, the due dates shown on your annual bill or most recent adjustment notice.

 

If you’re struggling to pay your council tax, then please let us know as soon as you can and we might be able to help you. Email us at taxation@sstaffs.gov.uk or call us on (01902) 696669. If you’re on a low income you might also be able to get extra help through Council Tax Support.

 

If you don’t pay enough, pay late or miss an instalment completely, you will get a reminder notice giving you seven working days to pay the missing amount. If you bring your account up to date, then we won’t need to take any further action.

 

What happens if I don't pay the amount as stated on the reminder notice?

 

You need to pay the amount stated on the reminder within 7 days so that your account is up to date.
 
We only issue two reminders in each financial year so if you don’t keep your account up to date or you are consistently late with your payments a Final reminder notice could be issued which would take away your right to pay your bill in instalments.  You would then be asked to pay the whole of the remaining balance.

If you still don’t pay then you could end up in court.

 

What happens next? Why have I been sent a summons?

 

If you have failed to make the payments requested on the final reminder notice our only option is to issue a Magistrates' Court summons advising you how much we’re looking to recover from you.

This will include an extra £48.00 summons cost.

 

Even at this stage, it’s not too late to pay your remaining balance plus the £48.00 summons costs which should be received by the council before the court date.   This will stop any further court action.

 

What happens if I don't pay the amount stated on the summons?

 

If you’re struggling to pay the full amount before the court date, get in touch with us straightaway, we may be able to help.

 

If you email us at taxation@sstaffs.gov.uk or call us on (01902) 696669 then we may be able to agree a special payment arrangement for you.

 

Court proceedings are dealt with by the Magistrates' Court which means your credit rating won’t be affected.

 

Do I have to go to court?

 

You don’t have to be at court - but the magistrates will still hear your case whether you’re there or not.  The court can’t deal with benefits issues or disputes over liability, discounts or exemptions.

 

At the court hearing we’ll ask the magistrates to issue a Liability Order against you – which will cost you a further £50.

 

More than one person responsible for paying the bill?


If there’s more than one person responsible for paying the bill then a joint summons with everyone’s name on would be served if you all still live at the same address. If the people responsible for paying the bill no longer live at the same address then a separate summons will be sent to each person. We could then look to either party to make the full repayment.

 

What happens if I do nothing?

 

If you don’t pay, we will apply to the Magistrates' Court for a Liability Order.

 

What are Liability Orders?

 

Once a Liability Order is granted by the court, it gives us certain powers to recover the money you owe us.

 

These powers could allow us to:

  • deduct money straight from your wages
  • deduct money from your benefits
  • get enforcement agents to remove goods from your home and sell them to cover the amount you owe

 

You may be asked to provide us with information about your employment and income details. It’s a criminal offence not to supply this information once requested or give false information.

 

We could also apply to the county court for a legal charge to be put on your property. This means that when the property is sold, we’ll automatically receive the money you owe us. The court could even force you to sell your property.

We could also apply to the courts to:

 

  • make you bankrupt
  • have you sent to prison.

What happens next?

 

After the court date, we’ll send you a letter telling you that we’ve obtained a Liability Order from the court, and asking you to fill in a form and provide us with details about your employment and your regular income and expenditure.

 

If you still can’t pay the bill in full, you’ll need to return the form to us within 14 days. We can then decide how to recover the debt.

 

Special payment arrangement

 

If you would like to make a special payment arrangement to clear the debt at this stage then you need to email us at taxation@sstaffs.gov.uk or call us on (01902) 696669.  But remember, you still need to return the letter we sent asking for information from you.

 

Whilst the payment arrangement is in place and you continue to pay on time, no further recovery action will be taken. However, if you default on the arrangement, it could be cancelled and we will look to take further recovery action.

 

If a mutually agreed payment arrangement has not been made by this point, South Staffordshire Council will pass the debt to our Enforcement Agents for collection. If you are unable to offer a reasonable payment plan to the Enforcement Agents they have the power to collect the debt by taking control of goods. (Further charges will be added to your account)

 

Enforcement Charges

 

All fees, charges and disbursements are set by Central Government. These are summarised below:- 

 

Enforcement other than under a High Court Writ

Fee Stage

Fixed Fee

Percentage fee (regulation 7): percentage of sum to be recovered exceeding £1500

Compliance stage

£75.00

0%

Enforcement stage

£235.00

7.5%

Sale or disposal stage

£110.00

7.5%

 

Additional costs and disbursements which you may incur are:

 

(a) the cost of storing your goods,

(b )the cost of hiring a locksmith to gain access to your premises and/or secure them thereafter

(c) court fees in relation to any applications made by the enforcement agent in relation to the  enforcement power which are granted.

(d) exceptional disbursements such as a removal/specialist contractor (where sanctioned by the court)

(e) costs of selling your goods

 

If the Enforcement Agents are unsuccessful in collecting the debt then South Staffordshire Council could commence action to make you bankrupt, or make an application for you to be committed to prison or obtain a charging order at the County Court.

 

What is County Court Action?

 

The Council can apply to the County Court for help to recover Council Tax, where repayment has not been made and other methods of recovery have failed.

 

The Council can secure the debt against your home. This is called a charging order and means that you could lose your home if you don't keep up the repayments.

 

What is a Charging Order?

 

A charging order allows the Council to levy a “charge” on your property in order to recover Council Tax arrears. Once a liability order has been obtained, and providing the outstanding council tax debt is over £1,000.00, the Council can apply to a county court for a charging order against your property. This agreement will include any future council tax due, plus interest.

 

If granted, the Council will be entitled to receive the outstanding amount of arrears if the property is sold (subject to there being sufficient equity remaining after charges of a higher priority are redeemed, e.g. mortgage).  Also loans cannot be taken out against the property until the debt is paid off.

 

The county court is empowered to order the sale of the property if you do not pay, or do not come to an arrangement to pay, the outstanding Council Tax arrears.

 

How do the Council apply for a charging order?

 

Applying for a charging order involves two stages, the interim charging order and then the final charging order.

 

Interim charging orders

 

If the Council decides to apply for a charging order the following things will happen:

 

1.   The Council sends a form to the court along with proof from the Land Registry that you own, or jointly own, your house

2.   If the court agrees that you own a share of the property and a charging order is allowed under the rules above, you’ll be sent court form N379 which contains all the details of the charging order

3.   A restriction will be placed on the Land Registry, stopping you from selling your house until the final charging order hearing. You will get a form B136 from the Land Registry telling you this has happened.

These forms are issued without a hearing. But they will give you a date that you need to go to court and this should be at least 21 days away.

 

If the hearing isn’t at your local county court you can ask for it to be transferred to your local county court. You can use the court finder tool on the Justice website to help you do this. There is usually a charge to move the hearing and the court does not have to agree to this.

 

Final charging order

 

For the second stage of the charging order process you’ll need to attend a hearing.

 

This is not as scary as it sounds, the hearing will be in a small room with you, a representative from the Council who’s applying for the charging order and the district judge.

 

It’s really important that you go to this hearing as it’s a chance for you to explain why you’re in this situation and what you’re doing to get things back on track.

 

What is an order for sale?

 

If you have a charging order, you need to keep making some payment to the debt. If you don’t, the Council could apply to the court for an order for sale. This would force you to sell your house so the Council can get their money back.

 

Independent Advice

 

If you are having financial difficulties the Citizens Advice Bureau have money advisers who are available to discuss debt issues.

 

The National Debt line provides free confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems.

 

Step Change Debt Charity - can help overcome debt problems. Unlike companies that charge a fee to manage people’s debts, the charity’s advice is completely free.

 

Contacts

Council Tax Enquiries Revenues & Benefits
Telephone: (01902) 696664 South Staffordshire Council
Fax: (01902) 696630 Wolverhampton Road
Email: taxation@sstaffs.gov.uk Codsall
  South Staffordshire
  WV8 1PX
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