Last updated: 12 September 2023

Next review: 21 August 2024

A summons is a court document. It sets out the time, date, and place that magistrates will consider whether to issue a liability order against you.

If you get a summons because you haven’t paid your Business Rates, we will add £179.50 costs to your account. At the court hearing, we’ll ask the magistrates to issue a liability order against you and further costs of £20. This will be added to your account afterwards, bringing the total costs to £199.50.

A liability order is the court’s agreement that you are liable to pay Business Rates for the premises in question. The magistrates will not consider your ability to pay when issuing a liability order. The liability order gives us extra powers to collect the money that you owe.

If you are liable for this debt, there are steps you can take to stop us from taking any further action. You must either pay the amount shown on the summons, or agree a payment plan with us before the court hearing date.

If you wish to dispute your liability to pay, get in touch immediately. We will aim to resolve your query before the court hearing.

You can submit a proposal to pay your outstanding balance by completing our arrangement form.

Can I make a payment arrangement?

If you’ve had a summons, we’ll still try and obtain a liability order if you don’t pay in full before the hearing. As such, any arrangement agreed will be subject to both the summons and liability order costs. 

Do I need to attend court?

No, please do not turn up to court. You must contact the council to make a virtual timed appointment as you may not be allowed into the court building.

If you feel you shouldn’t be liable for the summons, we’d prefer to try and resolve things before the court date.

To contact us about the summons, please email: with ‘Business Rates Summons’ as the subject. You should list the reasons why you think you’re not liable for the summons amount.

The hearing you’ve been summoned to appear at is known as a ‘bulk hearing’. This means we have issued several summonses for the same date and time as yours.

All of these will be dealt with at once. The court will only hear individual cases if you have a valid defence against the issuing of a summons. The courts will decide what is a valid defence.

To help you, we’ve listed the main defences:

  • we’ve been notified of an amendment to your rateable value and your account hasn’t been updated
  • Small Business Rates, mandatory or empty relief has not been awarded, although you’ve applied for it.

In all other cases, you must pay the debt in full before the court hearing data. If you don’t, you will face a liability order.

You can arrange with us to repay the outstanding amount plus costs. To do this, simply accept our provisional offer on the front of your summons.

If you can’t meet the repayments of our provisional arrangement you can make an alternative offer using our arrangement form.

One of our Business Rates officers will then consider your proposal and get back to you. In the meantime, please start making payments while you wait to hear from us.

When any arrangement is made, the liability order and court costs will be included and will remain on your account.

If you don’t make full payment including costs, or don’t have an agreed payment arrangement, we’ll recover the debt in other ways.

How we can recover your debt

Bankruptcy proceedings

We will apply to the high court to have you made bankrupt. This is extremely serious and will mean you won’t be able to get credit for a long time. Once made bankrupt, you cannot form or manage a company without the court’s permission. You’ll also incur further costs of between £1,500 and £40,000 plus. Any properties you own can be sold to pay your debt.

Compulsory liquidation

If you run a limited company, we may petition for winding up proceedings against your company. This will lead to your company being dissolved, and you may be disqualified as a director.

Bailiffs/enforcement agents (Business Rates)

We will instruct enforcement agents to collect the debt on our behalf. You must then make any payments directly to them.

The enforcement agents will charge fees of £75 when we pass them your account. If you fail to contact them within seven days, an enforcement fee of £235 will be charged. If you owe over £1,500 a further 7.5 per cent will be charged. Part of your company or personal possessions may be sold at public auction. This money will then be used to pay the enforcement fees and Business Rates you owe.

Bogus Enforcement Agents

Following repeated reports of fraudulent activity and bogus enforcement agents, the government has published guidance to help protect people from scams Guidance