Below we have outlined the usual procedures to be expected when recovering council tax debt:
Generally, council tax is to be paid over 10 (sometimes 12) monthly instalments. If you do miss a payment, your council should send you a reminder notice giving you at least 7 days to pay the outstanding balance.
Final notice to pay
If you fail to pay any missing instalments after the reminder notice, your right to pay by instalments will be taken away. In this instance, you will receive a final notice which will give you 14 days to pay the outstanding balance for the remainder of the financial year. (Note that it may be possible to negotiate with some councils to still pay in instalments by contacting them directly.)
If the full outstanding balance is not paid, the council can then apply to the sheriff court for a summary warrant. This is a certificate provided by the sheriff court which states how much council tax is owed.
The council and/or sheriff court do not have to notify you that they are applying for a summary warrant. At this stage you will not be able to negotiate with the court before this summary warrant is granted. You will only find out about the summary warrant once you receive it in the post. The summary warrant is issued by a sheriff officer. It will state how much is owed and who you should contact to arrange a repayment plan. You will no longer be making payments to the council, you will now be making these repayments to the sheriff officers. The amount you owe will also increase because there is an automatic penalty fine of 10% added to the balance once a summary warrant has been issued.
Arranging a debt repayment plan
You can arrange to repay the amount owed with a figure you feel comfortable with. Ensure you come to an arrangement that you will be able to meet. It is much better to pay a smaller amount regularly over a longer duration than to push yourself and fail to make payments on time.
Advice on Charge for Payment
If you are unable to come to a suitable repayment arrangement, the sheriff officers will ask you to provide the following:
- Name and address of your current employer
- National insurance number
- Bank account details
- Name and address of any other party who is also liable to pay council tax with you
If you fail to provide this information within 14 days, there will be an additional fine applied to the outstanding balance.
During this time, the council will obtain a charge for payment. It is advisable to ensure these legal documents have been completed correctly. If your name or the amount owed is incorrect, the charge for payment documents may be invalid.
Once this charge of payment has been served, it must also include a debt advice and information package which explains your rights and encourages you to seek further advice. If this hasn’t been included, any attempt to arrest your wages may be illegal.
If you’re unsure about how the debt advice and information package should look, you can download this PDF to check.
Once the charge for payment expires, normally after 14 days. The sheriff officers now have the power to recover this money from you by using the following methods:
- Arrest your earnings
- Freeze your bank account(s)
- Taking money directly from your bank account(s)
- Removing belongings from your home and selling them
Once a charge of payment has been issued, there is still time to take action. You can still make a debt repayment arrangement before it expires. This will prevent the above actions from taking place.