Recovery procedures explained

When do I have to pay my Council Tax?

Council tax is a yearly charge which is normally paid in ten instalments starting in April. We send you an annual bill in March each year. Your monthly payment dates and instalment amounts are shown on the bill. If your Council Tax changes, we will send you an adjusted bill. Payment should be made in accordance with the instalments listed on your latest bill.

If you wish to pay in 12 instalments you must contact us and request this as soon as possible. If you have received your annual bill you need to pay your April instalment and we will arrange for the remaining balance to be spread over the next 11 months.

What happens if I don't pay on time?

If you do not pay an instalment on time you will be sent a reminder notice. If you pay the arrears on the reminder notice within seven days your instalments will continue as scheduled. If you do not comply with the reminder notice a Summons will be issued without further notice and costs will be incurred. Please try to pay your instalments on the correct date, as if you fail to pay on time on two further occasions your instalments will be withdrawn and the full unpaid balance to the end of the financial year will become due and payable.

What if I have had two reminders?

We will issue a maximum of two reminders in any financial year. If you have been sent two reminders and fail to pay a subsequent instalment on time you will lose the right to pay by instalments. This will happen even if you have complied with the previous reminders and paid the overdue instalments within seven days. If you lose your right to pay by instalments you will be sent a Final Notice requesting payment, in one lump sum, of the outstanding balance on your account.

What if I don't pay the amount on the Final Notice?

If you don't pay the amount due within 7 days of being sent a final notice a Summons will be issued.

The Summons notice

The Summons will give you at least 2 weeks' notice that you are to appear before the Justices at Cambridge Magistrates' Court. The Summons will carry costs of £70. If you pay the amount in full including the costs before the court hearing, the proceedings will be withdrawn.

If your case goes to the Magistrates' Court

It is your right to appear in court and tell the Magistrates why you should not pay the Council Tax. However the Magistrates at the hearing will not be able to consider your failure to pay the Council Tax because you don't have the means to pay, or any matters relating to your council tax liability.

There is a right of appeal available in respect of your Council Tax liability through a Valuation Tribunal. Details can be obtained from the Council Tax team on 0345 045 0064 or can be found on the Information Sheet accompanying your bill.

You do not need to attend the court hearing if you do not wish to do so as the matter will be dealt with in your absence.

At the court hearing the Council will apply for a Liability Order. If granted the Magistrates will have decided that you are liable to pay the Council Tax for which you have been billed. The liability order enables the Council to recover the money in a number of ways.

Can I pay the arrears by agreeing a payment plan?

We will consider an offer from you to repay your arrears. Any arrangement will include the Summons costs. A liability order will also be sought as security against you, if you default on the payments. If you agree to a payment plan you must make the payments on time, otherwise further recovery action will take place. We will request that you complete an income and expenditure form [PDF, 0.1MB] before any offer is accepted.

What powers does the Council have to enforce the liability order?

The methods most commonly used to enforce the liability order are:

Attachment of earnings

We can order your employer to deduct a percentage of your wages or salary and send it directly to us. This will continue until the whole charge is paid.

  • Both you and your employer have a duty to keep us informed if you change employment.
  • Your employer can add £1.00 each time they make a deduction to cover their own costs.

Benefit deductions

The council can request that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) deduct money from your benefit payments, including Income Support, Employment Support Allowance or Job Seekers Allowance.

Enforcement Agents

We can ask enforcement agents to collect Council Tax debt for us. We will always write to warn you that your account will be passed to the enforcement company if you do not pay or if you do not make a payment arrangement with us.

An enforcement agent may consider giving you time to pay, but you must agree to what he/she considers to be a satisfactory arrangement. The decision to make an arrangement is entirely at the enforcement agents' discretion. If the enforcement agent does agree to accept an arrangement to pay the debt by instalments he/she will usually want to enter into a "controlled goods agreement". This means that the enforcement agent will take control of your goods but will not remove them from your property as long as you make all the payments.

The enforcement agent has the power to take control of goods. This means that he/she can seize your possessions and sell them to raise enough money to pay the outstanding balance. Enforcement agents need to cover their own fees. The fees are laid down in law. A £75 compliance fee is charged as soon as the case is passed to the enforcement agents.

What happens if I can't pay the enforcement agent and I don't have sufficient possessions to cover the debt?

If the enforcement agents decide it is impossible to recover the debt from you then your case will be returned to us. The Council may then take you back to court. The Justices will carry out an examination into your conduct and means. If they consider that the money should have been paid a warrant of commitment may be issued placing you in prison for up to 3 months.

What to think about at every stage

If you are having difficulties paying your Council Tax get in touch with us immediately. We will always try to make a payment plan with you but we will not agree to payments which leave you falling further behind into even more arrears.

Discuss or check your financial position with us to see if you may be entitled to a reduction in your Council Tax bill. If you are on low income you may qualify for Council Tax Support.

Council Tax and Freeman on the Land

Further information about Council Tax and Freeman on the land can be found on the General Council Tax information page