Tackling your debts

How to deal with council tax arrears - Part 2

Posted 23 September 2015

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More and more people are dealing with council tax arrears. If this is you then find out what you need to say to the council and how you can pay it back.

Here’s part 2 of yesterday’s blog. Today we’re going to show you what to do if your offer to pay is refused and what’s likely to happen next.

What if they refuse?

If they refuse your offer, or you simply can’t make any payments at the moment, ask for more time. This will allow you to go back to the drawing board and put together a plan or have the time to save for your payment. They might be willing to give you 14 or even 21 days to sort things out. Ask if they will stop any further action in the meantime.

If the council has already started court action, it’s even more important that you contact them straight away. The summons should detail how you can stop the action or dispute it, if you need to.

If you’ve fallen behind on payments, you’re likely to have quite a large payment to make to bring yourself back up to date. And it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to pay everything you owe in one go. However, look at your budget and see whether you could pay a little extra towards your bill with each payment to make it more manageable and spread the payment out.

If you think your situation is going to change and you’ll soon be able to pay the debt, for instance if you’re starting a new job soon, see whether the council will allow you time for that change to take effect. It may even be possible for the council to add what you owe to next year’s bill – although if they do this you’re going to have to look ahead and be sure that your situation will change for the better and that you will be able to pay a larger bill further down the line.

Bailiffs already knocking?

If the council have already contacted bailiffs about your case then ask them to stop the legal action and, if you can, ask for them to take your case back from the bailiff. If they won’t stop the bailiff action, you may have to arrange your payment plan with the bailiffs instead. Bear in mind that you will be liable for the cost of the bailiff’s visits, as well as your original bill.

Attachment of Earnings?

You can ask for the money to be taken directly from income that comes to you either through work (attachment of earnings) or benefits (attachment of benefits), we'll be covering those topics later in the week. It may be harder to control how much you pay back towards the debt if you do this though, so it might be a good idea to discuss how much they would take and how much you can afford with the a council tax officer or the Citizens Advice Bureau beforehand.

Don’t forget to look back at our blog from yesterday and check whether you could be entitled to help with this cost through council tax reduction. If you’re on a low income and you don’t have too much capital then you could be a candidate for the scheme.

If you’re in trouble with council tax don’t panic, and don’t be afraid to speak to the council. There’s always a way to deal with debt, so contacting the council to discuss your options is the best thing you can do.

Remember, if the reason you can’t afford this bill is because you’re having to pay other debts, you might need to consider a debt solution to help you manage everything. Contact us using the options to the left and we’ll talk you through whether a more formal arrangement could help you.







by Christine Walsh

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.