When you start renting or you buy your own home, along the other payments that you’re going to have to get used to (such as your rent or mortgage and utilities) you’ll start to pay council tax. It’s important that you try to keep up with your council tax payments as if you fall behind, you could be issued with a council tax liability order and even taken to court.
But will you be able to appeal against these council tax liability orders or will you just have to pay them? Let’s find out.
Council tax arrears
Before we take you through what a liability order is and whether or not it is something you’d be able to appeal against, let’s first look at the process of what you could face if you fall behind with your council tax payments.
You will typically pay your council tax in 10 monthly instalments throughout the year. If you begin to struggle with this, you should contact your council as soon as possible, and they may be able to help you spread out these payments over a longer period – for example, you could pay it over 12 months instead of 10.
If you miss a payment, you should receive a reminder from the council giving you seven days to pay the outstanding amount. This reminder will state that if you do not pay this within the set period, you’ll lose your right to pay in instalments and as a result, you’ll become liable to paying the outstanding amount for the full financial year.
Even if you do pay the outstanding amount but go on to miss a further payment later on (a second reminder will give you 14 days to pay the whole amount), you’ll receive the same reminder as before and may have to pay a full year’s council tax. Whether you’d be able to pay in instalments after this point is at the discretion of your council.
If you don’t pay what you owe after your first reminder, your local authority can issue you with a liability order.
A liability order enables your local authority to take you to court and arrange for the amount that you owe to be deducted from your benefits (including Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseeker’s Allowance) or wages. If the money cannot be reimbursed in this way, bailiffs could seize the value of what you owe from your goods, or you could (in extreme circumstances when you’ve consistently missed payments for a long time) be sent to prison. The legal costs the council incurred by taking you to court could be added on to what you owe as well.
If you wish to, you can attend the court and explain why you shouldn’t be liable for the debt.
Can I appeal?
When you’re issued with a liability order from the council, you won’t be able to appeal against this as you haven’t been keeping up with your payments. But what you will be able to appeal against is if you believe you’re in the wrong council tax band and are finding your payments unmanageable because of this.
If you’re in this situation, get in touch with the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). They will be able to review your banding and can in some cases, make a formal application to have your band altered. You can read more about appealing your council tax banding in our blog.