Summons and Liability Order important information
When Council Tax is not paid following the issue of a reminder and/or final notice, the council makes complaint to the Magistrates Court for a summons to be issued.
As soon as the summons is issued, costs of £60.00 are incurred.
The summons will inform you of the time, place and date of the hearing when the magistrates will consider whether they should issue a liability order against you.
The summons will tell you the amount owed, the period of time it refers to and the costs you have to pay. If you pay the amount shown on the summons in full (including the initial costs of £60.00) prior to the hearing, your case will not progress to court.
If you do not pay the full amount on the summons, a liability order will be applied for and these costs could increase by £50.00.
Do I have to attend Court?
You do not need to attend court, if you are the person liable to pay the Council Tax and the amount is unpaid.
The Magistrates will hear all the cases listed on the court list whether people attend or not.
Can I dispute the summons?
If you dispute the summons it is very important you contact the council prior to the court hearing. It may be possible to resolve the matter rather than wait until the court hearing when it may not be possible to resolve on the day.
What is a Liability Order?
A liability order gives the council additional powers for collecting the debt owed.
The liability order will be issued if the amount shown on the summons has not been paid in full by the court hearing.
The magistrates can also award costs against you, which you will have to pay.
The costs are currently £110.00 (£60.00 for the issue of the summons and £50.00 for the granting of the liability order)
Is a Liability Order always granted/awarded?
A liability order will normally be granted except where there is a valid defence against the issue of the liability order. The valid defences are:
- The Council Tax has not been properly set
- The property is not entered in the Valuation List
- The total amount of the summons has been paid in full – and a receipt is available and shown
- Bills and reminders have not been sent (this is not the same as not being received)
- You are exempt from payment of Council Tax
- You are not the person who is liable to pay the Council Tax that you have been summonsed for (this does not include minor mistakes of spelling of name or title)
- Bankruptcy, winding up proceedings have commenced or an Administration Order/Debt Relief Order has been made and the Council Tax debt is included
- The application for a liability order was made more than six years after the first demand was issued
Should I contact you if I have a valid defence?
To save the courts time it is reasonably expected that if any of the situations listed above apply to you (or you think they may apply), you contact the council for clarity prior to the court hearing as it may be possible to resolve your enquiry and therefore you will not have to attend court.
Please note: It is not a valid defence against the issue of a liability order if:
- You have money problems and simply cannot afford to pay or you think Council Tax is unfair
- You have applied for Council Tax support or a discount or exemption and to date you have not heard anything
- You consider the valuation band attributed to the dwelling to be incorrect and you have appealed to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).
You should still pay the amounts shown on the notices sent to you.
The Magistrates will not hear arguments unless they are valid defences or take your financial situation into account when making their decision.
The council will take your financial situation into account when discussing how you are going to repay this debt. This is why it is important to contact the council immediately on receipt of the summons.
What happens when a liability Order is granted/awarded?
When a Liability Order has been granted it gives the council more powers to recover the monies owed.
The further actions include:
- Requesting of personal financial information which may include carrying out a search with a credit agency for information
- Instructing enforcement agents (previously named bailiffs) to visit your home to recover the debt - they will send you a Notice of Enforcement which will include a financial statement form, asking for full payment or an acceptable payment arrangement. At this point you will incur fees of £75.00. However, if a personal visit to your home is required in an effort to obtain payment then additional fees of £235.00 will be incurred.
- Contacting your employer to have money taken directly from your earnings
- Contacting the DWP to have money taken directly from your benefits (this is not possible with benefits such as Incapacity Benefit but can be deducted for ESA, JSA, Income Support, Universal Credit and Guaranteed Credit)
- Applying for a charging order on your property with Land Registry (sale could be forced to pay your Council Tax arrears - this will incur further costs)
- Applying to make you bankrupt (this will incur further costs)
- Applying to the Magistrates Court for your committal to prison
It is important to get in touch with the council as soon as you receive a summons.
This is especially important if you think the council has made an error or you have difficulties in paying.
If you do we can check any queries you have and make any changes to your account should they be needed. We can also discuss the best way to collect what is owed, although you must be aware the final decision will rest with the council.
If we can agree an arrangement for payment, we will still ask the Magistrates to issue a liability order, but if you keep to the arrangement no further recovery action will be taken.
When setting up an arrangement you will be sent a special payment arrangement letter detailing your instalments and the due dates.
Please note: These arrangements are strictly monitored and if your arrangement is not adhered to the debt will automatically be forwarded to the council’s enforcement agents and further costs may be incurred.
If you do not get in touch we have to decide what to do as we are unable to discuss the situation with you. We would prefer to help you to pay in a way that suits both of us, and not have to take decisions without knowing your full and individual circumstances.