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Recovery Procedures Explained

When do I have to pay my council tax?

Council tax is a yearly charge which is normally paid in 10 instalments starting in April. We send you an annual bill at least 14 days before you make your first payment. Your monthly payment dates and instalment amounts are given on your bill. Any amendments to your council tax account will result in an adjusted bill being sent to you. Payment should be made in accordance with the instalments listed on your latest bill.

If you wish to pay in 12 instalments, you must write to us and request this as soon as possible.  If you have received your annual bill, you will need to pay the 1 April instalment and we will then arrange for the remaining payments to be spread over the next 11 months.

What happens if I don't pay on time?

If you do not pay an instalment on time you will be sent a reminder notice. If you pay the arrears on the reminder within seven days your instalments will continue as scheduled. If you do not comply with the reminder notice a summons will be issued without further notice and costs will be incurred. Please try to pay your instalments on the correct date, as if you fail to pay on time on two further occasions your instalments will be withdrawn and the full unpaid balance to the end of the financial year will become due and payable.

If you have had two reminders

If you have been sent two reminders in one year and fail to pay a subsequent instalment on time, you will lose your right to pay by instalments. This will happen even if you have complied with the previous reminders and paid the overdue instalments within seven days. If you lose your right to pay by instalments you will be sent a final notice requesting payment, in one lump sum, of the year's outstanding council tax.

What happens if I don't pay the amount on the final notice?

If you don't pay the amount due within seven days of being sent a final notice, a summons will be issued.

The summons notice

The summons will give you at least two weeks' notice that you are to appear before the Justices at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court. The summons will carry costs of £65. If you pay the amount in full, including the costs before the court hearing, the proceedings will be withdrawn.

If it goes to court

It is your right to appear in court and tell the magistrates why you feel you should not pay the council tax. However, the magistrates at the hearing will not be able to consider your failure to pay the council tax because you have not got the means to pay it, or any matter relating to your council tax liability.

There is a right of appeal available in respect of your council tax liability through a valuation tribunal; details can be obtained from the Council Tax section on 01799 510335. Details are also listed on the Appeal against your council tax valuation band section of this website. You do not need to attend the hearing if you do not wish to do so as the matter can be dealt with in your absence.

At the court hearing the Council will apply for a liability order plus costs of £25, in addition to the summons costs of £65. If granted, the magistrates will have decided that you are liable to pay the council tax. The liability order enables the Council to recover the money in a number of ways.

Duty to supply information once a Liability Order has been granted

Once a Liability Order has been granted the Council will write to you for further information, this will include:

  • Employment details


  • If your income is not obtained from employed or self-employed work please provide details from where or whom you receive money to live on from (such as maintenance, pensions, DWP benefits)

This information is being requested under Regulation 36 of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992, made under the Local Government Finance Act 1992.

If you simply fail to supply the requested information, on conviction you would be liable to a fine on Level 1 of the standard scale as set out in S48 Criminal Justice Act 1982 (Chapter 48 Part 3), currently up to £500.

If you knowingly supply false information, that is, lied about your means/employment, then on conviction the fine would be upon Level 2 of the same scale, that is, up to £1000.  You would also be liable to pay any Legal costs incurred by the Council in these proceedings

If your Council Tax account is already subject to a Liability Order, and you have not already provided the information or there has been a change in your circumstances, you will be issued with a letter requesting the information. You will only be issued with one reminder letter, if the form is not returned to us or the debt cleared in full, your account will be passed to the Legal Team to start prosecution proceedings against you.

If you have lost the form please contact the Recovery Team on 01799 510510, alternatively a form can be downloaded pdf icon here [18kb]

Can I pay the arrears by agreeing a payment plan?

We will consider any offer to repay your arrears. However, this will include any summons and liability order costs, if applicable. A liability order will also be sought as security against you defaulting on the payments. If you agree to a payment plan you must make the payments on time, otherwise further recovery action will take place.  We will request that you complete an income and expenditure form before any offer is accepted.  You can download one pdf icon here [18kb].

What powers does the Council have to enforce the liability order?

The methods most commonly used to enforce the liability order are:

  • Attachment of Earnings - this means that if you are in work (not self employed) we can ask your employer to deduct a certain regular amount from your wages or salary to pay off your debt.
  • Attachment of Income Support/Jobseeker's Allowance/Employment Support Allowance/Pension Credits - this means that we can get the Department of Work and Pensions to deduct a certain regular sum from your benefits allowance to pay off your debt.
  • Enforcement Agents - Enforcement Agents themselves endeavour to make a payment plan with you but can and will remove goods in certain cases.
  • Charging Order - this means the council places a charge on your home or property that you own.

What will happen when the Enforcement Agent calls at my home?

The Enforcement Agents employed by this council works to an agreed code of practice. If an agent calls on you and you have not paid or are unable to pay the amount outstanding in full, including the Council's and the agent's costs, you will still be able to make a payment plan to clear the debt. The agent will ask to enter your home to make a list of goods.

If you fail to honour the payment plan the agent could return later to remove and sell your goods. At this stage, further costs will be incurred for the removal of the goods, auctioneer's fees and the cost of storage.

If an Enforcement Agent calls and you fail to make contact, or if you have insufficient goods which can be removed, the agent will return the liability order to the Council for further enforcement action.

Prison - the last resort

If all the previous options fail then a summons may be issued requiring you to attend a committal hearing in the magistrates' court. The Justices will carry out an examination into your conduct and means. If they consider that the money should have been paid, a warrant of commitment may be issued placing you in prison for up to three months. This further action will involve additional costs.

What to think about at every stage

If you are having difficulty in paying your council tax, get in touch with the Council immediately. Remember we will always try to make a payment plan with you, but we will not agree to payments which leave you falling further behind into even more arrears.  You may be entitled to a reduction, benefits, discount, or relief.  Please visit our Local Council tax Support page.

Discuss or check your financial position with us to see if you may be entitled to a reduction in your council tax bill. If you are on a low income you may qualify for council tax benefit.

If you pay by Direct Debit, you save time, money and you do not run the risk of falling behind as payments are made for you by your bank or building society. You can select to pay on the 1st or 15th of the month, whichever suits you better:

If you wish to set up a Direct Debit, please contact us on 01799 510510.

If you have any queries regarding the Recovery Procedures, or you have received a notice from the Council please contact us. You can find details of how to contact us below.

Contact the Council Tax and Recovery department

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