Money Advice, Debt Advice & Debt Help
When is a Liability Order issued?

When is a Liability Order issued?

There are a number of steps that the Council must go through before they can apply for a Liability Order against you and instruct bailiffs. These involve trying to help you get up to date with your Council Tax payments

Your local Council may have published its own debt collection policy and you should check their website to find out more about this. However in general they will go through the following process before a Liability Order is issued.

1. Council issues you with a Reminder Letter

If you fail to pay your council tax in accordance with the original bill you will first receive a reminder letter from the Council. Normally this will state that you are required to pay the amount outstanding to bring your account up to date within the next 7-14 days or you will lose the right to pay in instalments and the full balance will become due.

If you are struggling to make your payments you must contact the Council without delay. You will be able to discuss a sensible payment option with the Council at this stage.

BMD Tip: If you are struggling with a number of different debts that you are unable to repay you should consider solving the problem by implementing a debt solution such as a DMP (Debt Management Plan),  IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) or Bankruptcy. You should get advice about this immediately.

2. Council issues you with a Final Notice

If you fail to act on the receipt of the reminder notice the Council will then send you a Final Notice. At this stage the Council will normally withdraw your right to pay the remainder of the Year’s Council tax by instalments and the balance of your account will have to be paid in full.

However if you are unable to pay then at this stage you still have the opportunity to speak to the Council and agree a sensible payment plan with them.

BMD Tip: If you receive a Reminder Notice and make the payment requested but then you miss a subsequent payment after that then the Council can then issue a Final Notice immediately demanding you pay the total balance outstanding for the remainder of the year.

Are you struggling to pay your Council Tax? Give us a call on 0800 077 6180 or complete the form below to speak to one of our experts

3. Council issues a Summons against you

If after receiving a Final Notice you still fail to make the payment demanded and do not agree a sensible repayment plan with the Council they will then apply  to the local Magistrates’ Court for a Summons to be issued against you. Once issued extra costs will added to the outstanding balance of your Council Tax.

Although unpaid Council Tax as with other unpaid debt is a civil offence the court process for unpaid Council Tax is managed by the Magistrates Court.

If you receive a Summons you must contact the Council immediately to discuss how you will repay the debt owed. Even at this stage they are still able to agree a sensible repayment plan with you if you cannot afford to pay the outstanding debt in full.  If you cannot afford to make an offer of payment then you should seek debt advice from a debt expert and consider applying for a suitable debt solution.

4. Council applies for a Liability order against you

If you fail you pay your outstanding debt as required on the Summons or fail to agree a sensible repayment plan with the Council this will result in them making application to the Court for a liability order against you.

This is a serious situation as once the Court has granted the Liability Order this will give the council the power to instruct bailiffs to visit your property to collect the money outstanding.

At this stage it is likely that your account will be passed to a bailiff and you will lose the right to negotiate with and make payments to the Council directly. It is very important that you make an agreement with the Bailiff to repay the debt or failing that take advice from a Debt Expert. Failing to pay what you owe at this stage could lead to a prison sentence.

5. Application for Prison sentence

If the Council has tried using bailiffs but you still fail to pay the Council Tax you owe in full then they could then  apply to the Magistrate’s Court for a warrant committing you to prison. The council will only take this step when all other efforts have failed.

Before issuing a warrant of commitment the court must have a hearing with you present to understand why you have not paid your outstanding Council Tax. The Court will want to review your financial circumstances and ability to pay your debt.

A warrant of commitment will only be issued if the court is satisfied that the failure to pay is the result of wilful refusal or culpable neglect. If you can show that you simply do not have the means to pay the Council tax that you owe and have made all reasonable attempts to agree a repayment plan with the Council it is unlikely that Court will not issue a warrant of commitment. In cases of extreme hardship the court has the power to cancel the debt if they believe you are simply unable to repay it.

BMD Tip: The maximum period you could be imprisoned for is three months. The court may still decide to postpone the period of imprisonment on certain conditions, normally where you agree to repay the debt over a period of time.

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