Dealing with your priority debts

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

The council will usually tell you to pay your bill in 10 monthly instalments but they may accept weekly payments. From April 2013, you can ask the council to let you pay your bill in 12 monthly instalments. If you find that you can't pay the full monthly instalment, don't just stop paying!

  • If your circumstances have changed, you may now qualify for help with paying your council tax bill from your local council. Contact us for advice.
  • Keep paying what you can afford.
  • Contact the council and try to come to an arrangement. Use your budget summary to help explain your situation. You can create a budget summary using our budget tool, Your budget.

If you don't keep to any payment arrangement you make with the council, they may apply to the magistrates' court to make a 'liability order' for the full amount they say you owe, plus court costs. The order will state that you are due to pay your council tax and have not done so. The court must make the liability order unless:

  • the council has not gone through the proper procedures;
  • you have paid the amount owed;
  • the name on the summons is wrong; or
  • it is more than six years since the council sent you a demand notice to pay the bill.

If one of these applies to you, tell the council immediately and go to the court hearing. You should get 14 days' notice of the hearing.

Extra advice:

complaining about council tax

If you feel that the help you get to pay your council tax is wrong, write to the council and ask them to look at the decision again. if you are not happy with the outcome, you may be able to appeal against the decision to an independent tribunal. Your council should tell you if you can do this.

If you feel that your home is placed in the wrong band, you may be able to ask the listing officer to place it in a lower band. Contact us for advice.

You can ask the court to adjourn (put off) the liability order hearing in the following circumstances.

  • If you have applied for help with paying your council tax bill from your local council.
  • If you have appealed to the Valuation Tribunal because:

- you don't agree you are legally responsible for the bill; or

- you don't agree with the amount of the bill.

The court does not have to adjourn the hearing but they may agree to it.