A Summary Warrant is a legal document issued by the Sheriff Court that authorises local authorities to collect outstanding debts. The warrant comes with a 10% surcharge that is legally recoverable, and can be used to recover council tax, business rates, and water and sewage charges. Before the warrant is issued, the local authority must send out a 7-day letter and a 14-day letter to the debtor, giving them the opportunity to pay the debt.
If the debt is not paid, then the authority can take action to recover it, such as instructing Sheriff Officers or placing a charge for payment on the debtor’s property. The debtor can appeal the warrant and dispute the debt through the courts. They can also take it to the Valuation Appeal Committee or complain to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman.
Summary Warrant Facts and Statistics in Scotland
In 2020-21, a total of 126,665 diligences were executed under the Summary Warrant procedure, a decrease of 56.6% from the previous financial year. The majority (90.4%) of these were in respect of council tax debts. Non-earnings arrestments were the most used diligence process for the Summary Warrant procedure in respect of council tax debts.
The largest number of diligences were granted in Tayside, Central and Fife followed by South Strathclyde, Dumfries, and Galloway. In 2020-21, a total of 165,035 Charge for Payments were served, a 40.0% decrease on the previous year. Most (83.5%) of Charge for Payments were served under the Summary Warrant procedure in respect of council tax debts. These statistics illustrate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Scotland, with a decrease in diligences and Charge for Payments being served.
Definition of a Summary Warrant for Unpaid Council Tax
A Summary Warrant authorises the local authority to take formal legal action against the person who owes the debt without first having to take the matter to court.
The Summary Warrant will state the amount of the outstanding debt and provide the person with a seven-day notice period in which to pay it or risk further legal action. If the person does not comply with the warrant, the local authority can take further action such as deducting wages or benefits, or seizing property.
Additionally, the local authority can add an additional charge of 10% to the total amount due when issuing a Summary Warrant. In some cases, the local authority may issue a Summary Warrant even if the person has not received any reminder letters or bills before.
Overview of Council Tax Debt in Scotland
If council tax payments are not made, the council can take steps such as asking for the years bill in advance, and taking you to court.
If you miss a payment, you will receive a letter called a first reminder which will tell you how much you need to pay, and if you do not pay within 7 days, you’ll need to pay your years council tax bill in full.
If you do not come to an arrangement with the sheriff officers, they’ll send you a ‘charge for payment’ letter which gives you 14 days to pay the full amount and their costs.
Unpaid Council Tax Facts and Statistics
When it comes to unpaid council tax, the statistics are clear: it is a major problem.
In Scotland, the most recent figures show that over £1.2 billion was owed in council tax arrears as of April 2021. This figure is up from £1.1 billion in the previous year. This means that a significant number of people are failing to pay their council tax bills.
What Happens Once a Summary Warrant is Issued for Unpaid Council Tax?
Once a Summary Warrant is issued, the Council Tax debt becomes legally enforceable. The Sheriff Court can then order Income Payments, Attachment of Earnings, Bank and Third-Party Debt Orders, and Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR).
The Council can also pursue the debt with a private debt collection company, such as Walker Love, who can issue a Charge for Payment which adds fees to the original debt. If the debtor does not believe they are liable for the debt, they can challenge the Summary Warrant in writing, and the Council have a legal obligation to put it on hold while they review the complaint. If the original Summary Warrant is upheld, the Council and Sheriff Officers can continue to recover the debt, including executing additional diligence.
What Happens if I Ignore a Summary Warrant for Unpaid Council Tax?
Ignoring a Summary Warrant for unpaid council tax can have serious consequences. If you fail to pay the debt within 14 days of receiving the Charge for Payment letter, the council can take enforcement action against you.
This could include Earning Arrestments (commonly known as a Wage Arrestment), Bank Arrestments, Attachments, or Exceptional Attachment Orders. These measures are designed to recover the debt and can be difficult to overturn. It is therefore important to act quickly and seek professional debt advice if you are issued with a Summary Warrant.
What are the Consequences of Being Issued with a Summary Warrant for Unpaid Council Tax?
It is important to note that the debt owed is legally recoverable by the Sheriff Officers, and as mentioned earlier, a 10% surcharge is applied to the debt. This means that the amount owed can quickly become unmanageable.
Enforcement action will be taken if the debt is not paid. This could include the Sheriff Officers entering your property and taking goods to cover the debt, or taking money from your bank account. Therefore, it is important to take steps to protect yourself from the consequences of being issued with a Summary Warrant for unpaid council tax. Speak with a local advice agency to reduce the liability, and consider entering into a Time to Pay Direction or Debt Arrangement Scheme to protect from you from enforcement action.
Are there any situations where Summary Warrants cannot be issued for unpaid council tax?
If the debtor has applied for a Council Tax Exemption or Discount, and been refused, or disagrees with the decision; or if the debtor has not been given the opportunity to present their case and explain why they are not liable for the debt.
Additionally, if the debtor has been unable to pay for reasons outside of their control, such as not being given sufficient communication from the council, then a Summary Warrant cannot be issued. It is important that all communication between the debtor and the council is documented, as this can help to prevent a Summary Warrant from being issued.
What Should I Do If I’m Having Trouble Paying Council Tax?
If you’re having difficulty paying your Council Tax, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. There are a few steps you can take to help you manage your payments.
Firstly, contact your local council and let them know your current financial situation. They may be able to help you set up a payment plan and may be able to offer you extra help or benefits. Make sure to look into any options available to you, such as Council Tax reduction or exemptions.
Secondly, make a budget and consider how you’re spending your money. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or suicidal due to money worries, seek help immediately.
Lastly, contact your bank, building society or lender and explain your situation. They may have policies in place to support you if you’re vulnerable.
How Does the Summary Warrant Procedure Work?
The Summary Warrant procedure is a legal process which allows creditors to take action against those who have not paid their debts. It is enacted under UK Government legislation and now falls under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Parliament. If a payment is missed, the creditor will send a 14 day demand for payment of the full amount.
If the payment is still not received, they can then apply a 10% surcharge and send the case to Sheriff Officers for enforcement. The Sheriff Officers will then issue a Charge for Payment, which gives the debtor 14 days to pay the debt in full.
If the payment is still not received, the Sheriff Officers can take enforcement action, such as attachment of earnings, money attachment or the removal of goods for sale at auction. If the debtor is unable to pay, they may be able to negotiate a repayment schedule with the creditor or apply for a time to pay direction.
Is it Possible to Negotiate with Creditors When Faced with a Summary Warrant?
Yes, it is possible to negotiate with creditors when faced with a summary warrant. This can be done by either paying the debt in full or by negotiating an extended repayment plan.
However, it is important to remember that the creditor will be entitled to take further action if the repayment plan is not adhered to. If negotiations are not successful, the creditor may take diligence measures such as attachment of earnings, money attachment, or the removal of goods for sale at auction.
It is also possible to apply for a time to pay direction, which will protect you from further creditor action as long as you adhere to the terms. In addition, you may benefit from applying for a debt payment programme under the Debt Arrangement Scheme, which can freeze interest, fees and charges on your debt.
What is the Time Scale for Resolving a Summary Warrant Dispute for Unpaid Council Tax?
The time scale for resolving a Summary Warrant dispute for unpaid council tax can vary depending on the circumstances.
Generally, the process begins with the local council sending a 7-day letter to the debtor, giving them the opportunity to pay the debt in full. If the debt is not paid within 7 days, the council will then send a 14-day letter demanding full payment.
If the debt is still not paid, the council can then apply for a Summary Warrant, which is usually granted within 14 days. Once the Summary Warrant is granted, the debt is then passed to a Sheriff Officer for enforcement.
The Sheriff Officer can then take action to recover the debt, such as seizing goods or enforcing a bank arrestment. If the debtor wishes to challenge the Summary Warrant, they must do so within 4 months. If the debtor is successful in challenging the Summary Warrant, the debt will be cancelled.
Are there any ways to prevent a Summary Warrant from being issued?
It is possible to take steps to prevent a Summary Warrant from being issued for unpaid council tax.
Firstly, it is important to make sure any debts owed to local authorities or HMRC are paid on time. If this is not possible, then it is possible to request payment arrangements with HMRC or ask for a Time to Pay Direction with local authorities.
It is also important to make sure any other debts, apart from council tax, business rates and water and sewage charges, are paid. It is also important to keep records of all correspondence with local authorities or HMRC.
If a Summary Warrant has already been issued, then it is possible to appeal the decision or seek a review of the decision. Lastly, the Debt Arrangement Scheme can be used with HMRC and Local Authority debt. By taking these steps, it is possible to prevent a Summary Warrant from being issued.
How can I challenge a Summary Warrant for unpaid council tax and what will be required?
Challenging a Summary Warrant for unpaid council tax is possible, but it can be a difficult process. The first step is to request a copy of the Summary Warrant from the local authority.
You should then make a written complaint to the council that issued the Summary Warrant, stating that you are not liable for the debt. You should provide evidence to support your challenge, such as proof of rent arrears and/or other debts, proof of your change of address, and details of any special circumstances that apply.
If you pay the amount due under the Summary Warrant, it can be difficult to get a refund, so make sure you have evidence to support your claim. It is important to keep a record of all correspondence with the local council. You may also be able to appeal to the Valuation Appeal Tribunal, and make a complaint to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman if the council does not resolve your complaint.
What legal rights do I have once a Summary Warrant is issued against me for unpaid council tax?
Once a Summary Warrant has been issued against you for unpaid council tax, you have a range of legal rights at your disposal.
You can appeal to the Valuation Appeal Committee, gather evidence of wages and proof of your new address, make a written complaint to the Council, escalate it to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman, appeal the decision to the Valuation Tribunal, apply for Council Tax Reduction, and make payments by instalments to settle the debt.
You also have the right to contest the liability for the debt and the amount of the debt, ask the Sheriff Officers to suspend enforcement action while you challenge the liability or amount due, and if your income is too low, you may be able to get some or all of the debt written off. It is important to remember that you have the right to a fair hearing when appealing a Summary Warrant.
Are there any other options available to me apart from a Summary Warrant for unpaid council tax?
Yes, there are other options available to those who are struggling to pay their council tax.
It is important to speak to your local council as soon as possible to explain your situation and to discuss any potential options. Your local council may be able to arrange a payment plan to help you pay your arrears off over a fixed period.
Alternatively, you may be able to apply for Council Tax Benefit or Scottish Welfare Fund. In addition, you may be able to use the Debt Arrangement Scheme to help manage your payments.
It is also possible to make a formal complaint to the council, or to appeal to the Valuation Appeals Tribunal if you are not satisfied with the council’s response. Ultimately, it is important to seek advice from a local advice agency or debt expert to discuss your options and to ensure that you are making the best decision for your financial situation.
What Role Does the Sheriff Officer Play in a Summary Warrant for Unpaid Council Tax?
Sheriff Officers play a key role in the enforcement of Summary Warrants for unpaid council tax. If the debt remains unpaid after the initial and final reminders have been issued, the Sheriff Officers can be instructed to take action.
This can include issuing a Charge for Payment, executing a Bank Arrestment or a wage arrestment, or even removing goods for sale at auction in order to recover the debt. In addition, the Sheriff Officers are responsible for proving the liability for the council tax is with the person in question before they can be instructed to act.
This means that the owner of the property can also be liable for the council tax. It is therefore important to be aware of the role of Sheriff Officers in the enforcement of Summary Warrants for unpaid council tax and to take appropriate action to avoid any further action being taken.
How Can I Stop a Sheriff Officers from Taking My Possessions to Cover a Summary Warrant Debt?
If you have been issued with a Summary Warrant for unpaid council tax, it is important to act quickly to protect your possessions. The Sheriff Officers can take your possessions to cover the debt if you do not take steps to prevent it.
The first step is to contact the council tax team and explain the situation. You should also explain your financial circumstances and ask for a repayment plan that is affordable. You should also provide evidence of any payments you have already made to help your case.
You should also consider taking advice from a debt expert who can help you to negotiate with the Council and even challenge the Summary Warrant decision. They can also provide advice on other options available to you such as debt relief orders or a time to pay direction.
It is also important to remember that you have the right to appeal the Summary Warrant decision to the Valuation Tribunal. You should also make a formal complaint to the Council and escalate it to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman if necessary.
By taking action quickly and seeking advice from a debt expert, you can protect your possessions from the Sheriff Officers and work towards a resolution.
How long do Summary Warrants stay in Place and will they ever be Lifted?
Summary Warrants remain in place until the underlying debt has been paid in full. They cannot be lifted or recalled unless the Council has made a mistake, in which case they can apply to the Sheriff Court to withdraw the summary warrant.
Once a Summary Warrant is issued, it is legally enforceable and can be sent to the Sheriff Officers to recover the debt. The debtor can also appeal to the Valuation Appeal Committee if they believe they are not liable for the debt or think that the amount of the warrant is incorrect.
If the debtor is still not happy with the Council’s decision, they can take it to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman. It is important to note that Summary Warrants will not affect a person’s credit rating.
How can the advice and guidance of a debt expert help with a Summary Warrant?
Getting the right advice and guidance from a debt expert can be a great help when dealing with a Summary Warrant. A debt expert can provide practical help and advice on what steps to take and how to manage the situation. They can help negotiate a realistic and affordable repayment plan with the creditor and can even represent you in court if needed.
A debt expert can explain your rights and what action sheriffs can take to collect the debt, and can also refer you to other helpful agencies or organisations that may be of assistance. They can also advise on how to make a payment plan to the creditor, as well as provide guidance on dealing with bailiff visits.
With the help of a debt expert, you can ensure that the correct procedure is being followed by the creditor and that your rights are being respected. Having the right advice and support can make a huge difference and help you to manage the situation in the most effective way.
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