Dealing with Council Tax arrears
If you’ve missed a Council Tax payment, you’re in 'arrears' - this means you owe money to your council.
Don’t wait for them to contact you. You should contact your council straight away. Ask to speak to someone in the Council Tax office and tell them about your situation.
If you ignore Council Tax arrears, it’s likely your council will take you to court quickly to get all the money at once. You’ll have to pay court costs and possibly bailiff fees as well as your debt, which can add hundreds of pounds to your bill.
Council Tax arrears is a 'priority debt'. This means you need to pay it before debts like credit cards.
If you can’t pay your Council Tax
Ask your council if they’ll let you pay your Council Tax in smaller amounts.
You’ll probably be asked to commit to paying a regular amount each month. If you're not sure how much you can afford, you can use our budgeting tool or talk to a specialist adviser at Citizens Advice.
If you're on a low income, you might be able to get a reduction on your Council Tax bill. You can read more about getting help with your Council Tax.
When you miss a Council Tax payment
You’ll get a reminder from the council about 2 weeks after you miss a payment.
If you pay within 7 days, you don’t need to do anything else. The debt will be clear and you’ll be able to continue paying your Council Tax in instalments.
Check the letter you get from the council to make sure you pay your Council Tax arrears into the right bank account. It might be different to the one you normally pay your Council Tax instalments into.
If you don’t pay within 7 days of the reminder
If you don’t pay within 7 days of the reminder (or if it’s the third time you’ve been late with Council Tax payments this year), the council will send you a ‘final notice’.
The final notice will tell you to pay all of your Council Tax for the rest of the year within 7 days.
If you don’t pay within 7 days of the final notice
Your council will usually apply to the courts for permission to collect the debt from you - this is known as a ‘liability order’. They might send a bailiff to your home or take money from your pay.
The court can also take money from benefits payments like:
Employment and Support Allowance
If the court gives the council a liability order, you’ll have to pay the cost of the court fees. You might also have to pay bailiff fees.
Coronavirus - if your council don’t have a liability order yet
At the moment, your council won’t be able to get a liability order because court hearings aren’t being heard. This means they won’t be able to collect your debt using bailiffs or by taking money off your benefits or earnings. They can still ask you to pay your debt.
It’s best to pay off your debt as soon as possible - you could stop your council going to court later and avoid paying court or bailiff fees. You should get help if you’re struggling to pay your bills.
If you still don’t pay your Council Tax
In extreme cases you could go to prison, but normally only if you’re deliberately not paying your Council Tax.