Local authority arrears

Local authority arrears

What to do if you get behind with payments?

If you have council tax (England & Wales) or rates arrears (Northern Ireland), contact your local council in England and Wales or Land and Property Services in Northern Ireland to make an arrangement to pay them. You will need to pay an amount off the arrears on top of your usual monthly council tax or rates payment.

Check the bill is correct

If you live alone or are the only person responsible for the council or rates tax, you may be entitled to a discount. If you live in Northern Ireland, this is known as Housing Benefit for Rates or Rates relief which will either pay your rates or contribute to them.

If you don't agree on what is owed

If you don't agree that you owe the council tax or rates, for example, because you have been charged for a period when you no longer lived at that address, tell the council or Land and Property Services as soon as possible.

What happens if you don't pay?

If you owe the council tax or rates they can take further action depending on where you live.

England and Wales

If you fail to pay your council tax arrears or don't agree with the council how to pay it off in instalments, your council can apply to the local magistrates' court for a liability order. This allows the council to enforce payment of the arrear amount plus the council tax for the full year, in a number of ways, such as:

  • An attachment of earnings order forcing your employer to deduct money from your wages or salary and pay it to the council
  • Making deductions from your benefits to pay off the debt
  • Enforcement agents taking control of your goods and selling it to recover the debt
  • Applying for your bankruptcy if the outstanding council tax is at least £5,000 and it is clear that you are unable to pay your debts

If these methods are not successful, you could even be sent to prison if the council applies to the magistrate's court for a committal warrant.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, The Land & Property Services will take you to court for rates arrears. You will receive a court summons giving the amount of the arrears and a date to attend court. You should contact Land & Property Service as soon as you receive a summons, to negotiate a payment plan with them. If the matter does proceed, the court is likely to give judgment against you for the arrears, including an amount for legal costs. If you fail to pay the judgment, Land & Property Services can enforce the court order through the Enforcement of Judgments office (EJO). Some enforcement options they can use are, for example, an attachment of earnings order or an order charging land.

Further help

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