Problems paying and late payment Council tax debt recovery policy (pdf 225 kb) If you are struggling to make payment on time you may want to consider if any of the options below will help: Pay by direct debit - this takes away the pressure of remembering to pay each month. Change your instalment date - amend the payment date to coincide with when you receive your salary or benefit payment. Amend the number of instalments - if your bill is calculated over 10 months you could request it is calculated over 12 months. This will make it cheaper each month. Instalments can only be amended within the financial year they are due. A financial year starts in April and finishes the following March. Apply for council tax support - if you are on a low income or claiming universal credit you may be entitled to some help to pay the council tax. This is a means-tested benefit and depends on your personal circumstances Apply for an exemption or discount - certain circumstances may mean you are entitled to an exemption or discount. For example, you are the only adult in the property, all occupants are students, someone uses a wheelchair in the home. Exemptions and discounts are not automatically given, they need to be applied for. Connect to Support Hampshire - has links to organisations that can help with a wind range of money-related issues including debt, emergency food and keeping your home warm. What happens if payment is overdue? If you don't pay your council tax, or pay late, you may be subject to recovery proceedings and your right to pay by instalments will end. Below are further details of what will happen if you fail to make your payments on time. Step one - reminders/final notice If you do not pay your council tax as shown in your bill, we will send you a postal reminder notice. The notice will tell you the amount you have to pay to bring your account up to date. You must pay the amount shown on the notice within 7 days of the date on the reminder. If you still fail to make the payment, further action will be taken as outlined in step two. If you pay the first reminder notice and fail to pay a further month’s instalment, we will send you a second postal reminder notice. Again, you must pay this within 7 days of the date shown on the reminder. If not, further action will be taken. What can I do? Firstly, you must pay the missed instalment within the timescales on the reminder and then continue to pay instalments as they become due. If the instalment date is not right for you, to make the payment on time, consider changing the instalment. Paying by direct debit takes the stress out of paying on time. If the amount owed is for a previous year you can request a repayment arrangement. Any arrangement agreed will be in addition to the instalments required for the current year. Step two - cancellation notice If you have paid previous reminder notices but default again, your right to pay by instalments will be cancelled and the balance of the account to the end of the tax year will be due for payment. You must pay the amount shown on the notice within 7 days of the date shown on the notice. If you do not pay the amount due a summons will be issued. Step three - summons If you do not pay the council tax due on a cancellation notice, you may be summonsed to appear before the Magistrates Court. This will incur additional costs of £87.50 to your council tax account. The summons will include a court hearing date. If the amount due (including the summons cost) is fully paid before the court hearing date, then there will be no further action. If you cannot pay the full amount due before the court hearing date, we will ask the court to grant a Liability Order to recover the debt. However, you can contact the council tax recovery team to set up a special payment arrangement to pay this. The Court cannot make payment terms with you. Step four - liability order A Liability Order is granted to East Hampshire District Council by a magistrate’s court if any balance stated on the summons remains unpaid at the hearing You don't need to go to the court hearing unless you have a legal defence against the issue of a liability order. Defences against a liability order (pdf 18 kb) Please note that the following are not legal defences against the issue of a liability order: you cannot afford to pay the property should be exempt, or a discount is due you have an outstanding benefit claim The council only has to prove to the court that notices have been sent to you, not that they have been received by you. Freeman on the land and challenges to the legality of council tax You do not have a choice as to whether you are liable for council tax and being a ‘freeman’ does not exempt anyone from paying council tax. If you are thinking about going to court, please contact us first to see if we can help you. Step five - next steps after a liability order has been issued Request information Once a liability order has been granted by the court, you have 14 days to make a suitable payment arrangement with us before recovery action is taken. If you do not make a payment arrangement, or you fail to keep up with your payments, we can take recovery action in the following way. Make deductions from your earnings If we have been granted a liability order we can order your employers to deduct amounts directly from your wages or salary and pay it direct to us. This is called an attachment of earnings order. The amount will be a set percentage of the earnings you have left after other deductions, like income tax, have been made. Make deductions from your benefits If we have been granted a liability order we can ask the benefit agency to take money from your income support, jobseekers' allowance, or pension credits to pay to us. Enforcement agents: If we have been granted a liability order we can pass your debt to accredited enforcement agents (previously known as bailiffs) who can come to your home and seize property to raise money towards paying your council tax debt and our recovery costs. You can contact the enforcement agent and offer to come to a repayment agreement. Do this straight away because the enforcement agent fees (initially £75) will be added to your bill. If they visit you in person, you will incur a minimum of £235 in additional costs. Our appointed enforcement agents are: Chandlers: 0208 290 0866 Ross & Roberts Ltd: 01458 550480 Enforcement agent fees Recovery stage Enforcement charges Enforcement notice £75 Enforcement agent visit to take control of goods £235 plus, if the debt is above £1,500, 7.5% of the amount above £1,500 Enforcement visit to remove goods £110 plus, if the debt is above £1500, 7.5% of the amount above £1500 Where removal and sale takes place Storage costs Actual costs Locksmiths costs Actual costs Any relevant court application fees Actual costs Auctioneers costs where the sale is held on the auctioneers premises Auctioneers commission Not exceeding 15% of the sum realised Auctioneers out of pocket expenses Actual costs Reasonable advertising costs Actual costs Internet auction costs Actual costs In some circumstances exceptional costs will apply Agreed by court Charging order If we have been granted a liability order and your council tax still isn't paid in full, we may, in certain circumstances, apply to the County Court for a charging order. This will place a secured charge on your property leading, in some cases, to the forced sale of your property to pay the outstanding council tax. You will also be liable for the legal fees and disbursements incurred in this process. Bankruptcy proceedings If we have been granted a liability order and your council tax still isn't paid in full, we may, in certain circumstances, start bankruptcy proceedings against you. We will firstly issue a statutory demand, giving you 21 days to pay the amount due in full. If you do not pay the amount in full within 21 days, or take no further action, then we will apply to the County Court for a bankruptcy order. If such an order is made against you, the official receiver will take control of your financial affairs for the next three years. You will also be liable for the substantial legal fees and disbursements incurred in this process. Committal to prison We can summons you back to the Magistrates' Court to attend a means and conduct hearing. The Magistrates court will consider if you are guilty of either: ‘wilful refusal’- refusing to pay when you could have done; or ‘culpable neglect’- not taking appropriate action when you were billed, and recovery action was being taken. The Magistrates Court will examine your means (income and circumstances) now and at the time of the arrears. They may then decide that you should have paid the debt and could issue a warrant of commitment, placing you in prison for up to three months. They may suspend the imprisonment if they wish to make a payment arrangement with you (suspended order). If you fail to appear in court, we will ask the Magistrates Court to issue a warrant for your arrest without bail. This will be passed to our process servers for execution. This means you can be arrested at a time which may be very inconvenient to you and delivered into custody. There you will be held until such time that the Magistrates are able to convene to hear your reasons for non-payment. Additional costs will also be incurred at this stage. It would be wise to contact us before your arrears reach this stage.