Taking Court Action
We will take court action to enforce payment of the debt if you do not make an arrangement for payment or fail to keep to an arrangement made. At this point costs start to become payable.
We will serve the summons at least 14 days before the court hearing. If the amount shown on the summons, including £60.00 costs for the issue of the summons, is paid in full before the court hearing, no further action will be taken and proceedings will be withdrawn. However, if the full summonsed balance is not paid in full before the court date, we will apply to the magistrates court to issue a Liability Order. This means we can enforce payment of the outstanding amount, and an additional £40.00 for the cost of the Liability Order. If you are unable to pay the full amount before the court date, we can still be contacted to discuss an arrangement for payment on the understanding that the application for a Liability Order (including costs) will proceed. In these cases, we will not take any enforcement action on the Liability Order if the arrangement is maintained. If you wish to discuss the summons, please contact us before the court date.
If you attend court in answer to the summons and state that you have applied for council tax reduction, the application for a Liability Order and additional costs would still be made. An assurance will be given to the court that the matter will be looked into after the hearing and, if it is found that an application has been received, no action will be taken on the Liability Order until any reduction has been calculated. You will then be informed and given the opportunity to make and maintain a satisfactory arrangement. If, as a result of your claim, no council tax is due for payment, then the Liability Order and costs will be withdrawn.
The Liability Order
If a Liability Order is granted against you, we will send you a request for information form, which you are required by law to complete and return to us within 14 days. This letter will advise you of the potential costs you will have to pay if Enforcement Agents are instructed to recover the debt. If you do not return this form with the appropriate information, or provide false information, we can take civil court action against you and you could be fined up to £1000, in addition to your existing council tax debt.
Arrangements can be made at this stage, however they will only be considered if the information requested on the form is provided. We will try to consider your financial circumstances whenever possible when discussing any such arrangement. You can make an offer of repayments by completing our online form.
If you do not make an arrangement for payment, or fail to keep to an arrangement made, we will take action to enforce payment of the debt without further notice.
How we can enforce the payment
The main ways we can enforce payment of the debt are as follows:
- If you are working, an Attachment of Earnings Order may be sent to your employer who will make deductions from your wage/salary until the debt is cleared.
- If you are claiming Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance, a request may be sent to the Department of Work and Pensions for deductions to be made from your benefit.
- Prior to 6 April 2014, bailiffs may have been instructed to remove and sell your goods to the value of the outstanding council tax and costs incurred. The bailiff will give you the opportunity to make a satisfactory arrangement for payment before considering removing your goods. If bailiffs are instructed, you will incur a significant amount of bailiff costs relating to the visits made by the bailiff; levy on goods; hire of van; auctioneer's fee etc. We will have sent you a warning letter at least 14 days before a bailiff was instructed to recover the debt, requesting payment in full. This letter will have advised you of the potential costs if bailiffs were instructed to recover the debt.
From 6 April 2014
From 6 April 2014, the law changes and Enforcement Agents (formerly bailiffs) are more accountable and must change the way they work. The legislation that introduces these changes has also increased the fees that Enforcement Agents must charge.
From 6 April 2014, the council can instruct an Enforcement Agent to collect outstanding Council Tax debt from you if a liability order has been issued in your name.
We will do this either if you have not made, or not kept to an agreed repayment plan, or you have not completed and returned the personal information form sent to you.
The Enforcement Agent will contact you to arrange payment either in full or by instalments. You must answer their letters, emails or calls and arrange payment.
If your debt has been passed to an Enforcement Agent you will incur a fixed fee of £75 when they issue a letter to you by post.
Any payments or offers of repayment should then be made to the Enforcement Agent and not the council.
If you do not arrange to pay the Enforcement Agents, or arrange to make payment and then do not pay as agreed, they will visit you. If they visit, there is a fixed fee of £235 plus 7.5% for any balance due above £1,500.
The Enforcement Agent will normally ask you for payment in full, however if you cannot meet this request, the Enforcement Agent will normally make a repayment arrangement with you. The Enforcement Agent may enter into a Controlled Goods Agreement, where the agent makes a list of your possessions that is equal in value to your debt.
If your possessions are subject to a Controlled Goods Agreement, you cannot dispose or sell them without the Enforcement Agents permission.
If you do not sign the Controlled Goods Agreement, the Enforcement Agent can take your goods whilst they are at your property. There are additional costs of £110 plus 7.5% for any balance due above £1,500 if goods have to be removed and sold.
If you do not pay as agreed and you have signed a Controlled Goods Agreement, the Enforcement Agent may enter your property, to take the goods listed.
If the Enforcement Agent believes that there are insufficient items to clear the debt, we will then consider other recovery options such as bankruptcy, a charging order against your property, or applying for committal to prison.
|Enforcement other than under a High Court Writ|
|Fee Stage||Fixed Fee||Percentage fee (regulation 7): percentage of sum to be recovered exceeding £1500|
|Sale or disposal stage||£110.00||7.5%|
If appropriate, we may also consider taking the following steps to enforce payment of the debt:
- The commencement of bankruptcy / liquidation proceedings.
- Application to the County Court for a Charging Order against your property.
- Application to the Magistrates for your committal to prison.
At whichever stage of the enforcement process, you can offer to make an arrangement for payment plan, whenever possible, we will try to ensure that you have the financial means to keep to that arrangement. This will mean that in order to help you, we may sometimes need to ask for full details of your income and outgoings. There may also be occasions when we will advise you to seek help from one of the voluntary organisations who specialise in debt counselling.