What happens if you don't pay your Council Tax

Council Tax

If you’re struggling to pay your Council Tax, contact us as soon as possible. The longer you ignore a debt problem, the worse the situation becomes.

If you don't pay your Council Tax, there are a number of ways we can collect the money you owe. On this page you can find out what to do if we've started proceedings against you.

If you have received a reminder, final notice, or summons, and would like to make an arrangement, please complete the Council Tax Arrangements form.


I've received a reminder Click to get info

If you don’t pay your instalment, or your payment arrives late, we'll send you a reminder.

If you get a reminder, you have seven days to pay your instalments so they are up-to-date.

If you don't pay within seven days, you'll lose your legal right to pay by instalments. This means that:

  • we can send you a summons and you will be charged additional costs of up to £99.50.
  • you'll need to pay the full balance for the year in one payment

If you bring your account up-to-date, but then fail to continue to pay your instalments, we'll send you a second reminder. You can only receive two reminders in any one year.

If you fall behind a third time, we'll send you a final notice.

Set up a Direct Debit to avoid late payments.

If you receive a final notice for Council Tax, you lose your legal right to pay by instalments.

Your remaining balance will now be due in full. If you don't pay the full balance, we'll send you a summons.

If you have received a summons and you would like to discuss or query it, please complete the Council Tax arrangements form

For the avoidance of doubt, if you decide to attend court on the day court security may not be able to grant you access to the Court Building and you may be turned away. You would then be unable to appear by video link on the day or in person and your hearing is likely to continue without you. All hearings will be over the live link. 

Please do not attend Thames Magistrates’ in person on the Hearing Date, as neither Council Staff or Court staff will be available to assist you.

If you wish to challenge the liability order please contact our offices in advance so suitable arrangements can be made for you to appear by remote link.

If you receive a summons because you haven't paid your Council Tax, costs of £87.50 will be added to your account. 

    At the court hearing, we'll ask the magistrates to issue a liability order against you. This means that the court agrees that you're liable to pay Council Tax at the property in question. A liability order gives us extra powers to collect the money that you owe. We'll also ask the magistrate to add further costs of £12.00. This means the total costs you will incur will be £99.50.

    You can avoid a court hearing if, before the court date, you:

    • pay your debt in full (including the £87.50 costs)
    • accept the arrangement to pay, which is offered on the back of your summons (including the £87.50 and £12.00 costs - if the arrangement goes past the hearing date).
    • check whether you can save money on your Council Tax bill on our discounts, exemptions and reductions webpage
    •  If you have any questions about your account you can call us on 020 8496 3000 or email at Revenue.services@walthamforest.gov.uk. If you email us, please ensure you quote your Council Tax reference number and the Summons number

    To accept the arrangement offered, log in, or sign up, to My Account and link your Council Tax account (first time only). Find out how to do this. Alternatively, you can text 'Agree' plus your Council Tax account number to 60075.

    You have the right to attend the magistrates’ court on the hearing date, for a ‘bulk hearing’. This means we've issued a large number of summonses for the same date and time as yours. The court will only hear individual cases if you have a valid defence against the issue of a summons. The courts decide what is a valid defence.

    To help you, we have listed the main defences:

    • the property named on your summons is not shown as an entry in the valuation list
    • the tax has not been properly set
    • the amount has not been demanded in accordance with the statutory provisions
    • the amount demanded has been paid in full
    • more than six years have elapsed since the day on which the sum became due
    • bankruptcy or winding up proceedings have been initiated

    The magistrates won't take into account if you are able, or not able, to pay.

    We instruct enforcement agents (bailiffs) to collect debts on our behalf.

    If you've received a letter, visit or telephone call from one of the enforcement agencies listed below, it’s important that you contact them straight away.

    The enforcement agencies we deal with are:

    The enforcement agents will charge you a fee of £75 once we instruct them to collect your debt. If you don't contact with them within 7 days, you will be charged an enforcement fee of £235. If you owe more than £1,500, you'll be charged an additional 7.5 per cent.

    Enforcement agents can seize some of your personal possessions and sell them at public auction. The money collected from the auction will be used to pay the enforcement fees and the Council Tax that you owe.

    To prevent this happening, you should pay your Council Tax debt and fees directly to the enforcement agents. They may be able to make an arrangement with you to spread payment of the outstanding balance over a longer period of time.

    Please see their Schedule of Enforcement Fees (PDF 95KB)


      A statutory demand is a written notification from us, saying that if you don't pay your debt, or agree a payment arrangement with us, we will start court proceedings to make you bankrupt.

      This is extremely serious action and will badly affect your ability to get credit for a long time afterwards. You’ll incur substantial additional costs - between £1,500 and £40,000 plus. Any properties, or other assets you own, can be sold to pay your debt.

      You should seek independent advice about how bankruptcy would affect you.

      To prevent this happening, you need to pay the debt in full, or agree a payment arrangement with us.

      A bankruptcy petition is an application for a bankruptcy order to be made against you.

      The petition will advise you of the amount outstanding and the date, time and location of the court hearing. You must attend the court hearing unless you have paid the debt and costs in full.

      If you own a property, the court will place a restriction on the title of your property. This means that you can’t sell or transfer your property.

      To avoid being made bankrupt, you must pay the outstanding debt in full, including the costs. Payment MUST be received by us no later than the day before the court hearing date.

      Once you've made payment, please follow these steps, to let us know that you’ve paid:

      1. Open our Council Tax enquiry form here
      2. Select ‘I have received a statutory demand, bankruptcy petition….’
      3. Select ‘Bankruptcy petition’
      4. Select ‘What do I do next?’
      5. Enter your payment amount and proof of payment
      6. Select ‘Next’, enter your details, then submit the form

      If you've been declared bankrupt by us:

      An official receiver is appointed to act as trustee of your bankruptcy affairs. This means you need to deal with the official receiver to discuss payments, instead of sending them directly to us. Your bankruptcy order will give their contact details.

      We'll send you a new Council Tax demand in the financial year following your bankruptcy. You should pay this to us, as normal. Even if you haven't been discharged from your bankruptcy, you'll have to pay this, as well as further years’ Council Tax when it's due.

      If you've been declared bankrupt by someone else:

      Follow these steps, to let us know the details:

      1. Open our Council Tax enquiry form here
      2. Select ‘I have received a statutory demand, bankruptcy petition….’
      3. Select ‘Bankruptcy’
      4. Select ‘I have been declared bankrupt by someone else’
      5. Enter the details of the bankruptcy
      6. Select ‘Next’, enter your details, then submit the form

      A charging order is a restriction placed on your property. It means that when your property is sold the debt, plus interests and costs are paid to us from the net proceeds of the sale. The charging order will remain against the title of the property as long as you owe the debt. We may choose to force the sale of your property to pay the outstanding debt.

      If you’ve received a charging order, you should seek independent legal advice.

      If the charging order is made final, then the charge and/or restriction will remain on your property until either:

      • the property is sold and your solicitor forwards the cost of the debt to us from the proceeds, or
      • the debt (redemption fee) is paid in full and the Land Registry have removed the charge/ restriction on the property (this may involve a further fee)

      My home is in joint names, but the debt is just in my name

      A charging order will only apply to your share of the property.

      Will I be charged interest?

      If the debt exceeds £5,000, statutory interest (which is currently 8% above the Bank of England base rate) is incurred. This is chargeable from the date the interim order is awarded.

      Can I pay the debt after the charging order is granted?

      Before you pay the debt, please get a redemption amount from us. This will include the debt you owe, plus other costs and interest if applicable.

      Follow these steps, to request a redemption amount:

      1. Open our Council Tax enquiry form here
      2. Select ‘I have received a statutory demand, bankruptcy petition….’
      3. Select ‘Charging order’
      4. Select ‘What if I pay my debt after a charging order has been granted’
      5. Enter the date you intend to pay the debt in full
      6. Select ‘Next’, enter your details, then submit the form

      If you're working - we can instruct your employer to make deductions from your salary. The amount taken will depend on your net earnings and are set out in regulations. This is called an 'attachment of earnings order'.

      If you get Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance - we can apply for you benefit to be deducted. 

      If we can't collect the money that you owe by using one of the methods listed through deducting your salary or benefits, we will start committal proceedings against you. This means you will be summoned to attend the magistrates’ court and further costs will be added to your account.

      To prevent this happening, you can pay the debt in full, or agree a payment arrangement with us.

      If the magistrates think that you have the money to pay but are deliberately not paying, they may decide to send you to prison for up to 90 days.

      If you have a debt relief order, or an IVA, please let us know the details. To do this:

      1. Open our Council Tax Enquiry form here
      2. Select 'I have a debt relief order or IVA'
      3. Choose either 'debt relief order' or 'IVA'
      4. Upload a copy of either the notification from the official receiver,showing that the debt relief order has been granted, or the IVA official agreement letter
      5. Select ‘Next’, enter your details, then submit the form

      It's important that you make sure to upload the page that which confirms which debts are included in the order or IVA.


      Council Tax Support Click to get info

      If you're on a low income or get some state benefits, you could get help to pay for Council Tax with Council Tax Support.

      Help with budgeting Click to get info

      If you want advice and guidance on budgeting, there are many independent organisations that can help you to manage your money: 

      • The Money Advice Service can assist you to develop a personal spending plan and give advice on bank accounts and other financial products.

      • The National Debtline is a debt charity which offers free impartial advice with instant recommendations based on your circumstances.

      • Citizens Advice Waltham Forest - Adviceline 0808 278 7838 - can help with debt problems and provide support to residents who are worried that they may be about to get into debt and want help to prevent it.

      Policies and documents Click to get info

      Our Council Tax collection and recovery policy (word 375KB) describes how we collect Council Tax we're owed.

      Your Guide to Council Tax and Business Rates Recovery (PDF 786 KB) explains what may happen if you don’t pay your Council Tax or Business Rates.