Business rates recovery and enforcement

We will begin the process of trying to recover the money you owe if you:

  • Fail to pay the amount due on a Business Rates reminder; or
  • Fail to pay the amount due on a Final Notice.

Find out what happens at each stage of the recovery process:

Summons Stage

The Summons stage is to take recovery action to ensure you pay your Business Rates in full. We make a complaint to the North Cumbria Magistrates' Court. This allows the issuing of a Summons with the authority of the Court. The Summons gives you 14 days' notice of the date of the Court hearing. It explains that we intend to ask the Magistrates to make a Liability Order. This is for Business Rates outstanding and the costs incurred. You have the option to appear in Court on the summonsed date. You can dispute the making of the Liability Order.

If you make payment of the full amount before the day of the Court hearing, the application for a Liability Order will not proceed.

See explanatory notes on the enforcement of the national non-domestic rate (PDF: 44Kb / 2 pages). There are few defences to the making of a Liability Order. When we send a Summons, we include explanatory notes, which include the valid defences.

Liability Order

A Liability Order gives us the authority of the Court to recover monies by the following methods:

  • Enforcement Officers;
  • Committal to Prison;
  • Insolvency.

If you do not pay the amount in full, an officer will attend the Court to present our case. We will prove that we undertook all necessary procedures. If you attend the Court, you can put your case forward. If the Magistrates accept we adhered to the necessary procedures, they grant a Liability Order. After the hearing, and on the same day, we send you a Notice of Liability Order with a Request for Information form.

Request for Arrangement form

This form asks you to enter into an arrangement to clear the outstanding balance. You must do this by the end of the financial year. If we accept this arrangement, and you maintain it, we will take no further action.

Enforcement Officers (Bailiffs)

If an arrangement fails, or is not offered, we can consider sending your case to the Enforcement Officers. Before doing so, you will receive an enforcement warning letter. The letter warns you that, in 14 days, Enforcement Officers will receive details of your debt. It includes an option to make an arrangement. Once your case is with the Enforcement Officers, we rarely get involved again.

Return from Enforcement Officers (Bailiffs)

If the Enforcement Officers are unable to recover the monies, they will inform us of the reasons why. This is a certificated Nulla Bona.

We will write to you advising you of our intention to take you to Court. Even at this stage, we encourage you to pay by instalments.


We have several options when considering what action to take against a Business Rates defaulter. Consideration of each case is on its merits. If it is insolvency, we will serve a statutory notice. The notice sets out what you should do next. If you do not pay the debt and make a satisfactory arrangement, we can liquidate your business. If you are a sole trader, this will make you bankrupt. Insolvency is a complex area.

Committal Proceedings

If you ignore our last chance offer, a thorough review is undertaken. If the decision is to take the case forward to Court, we will send you a committal warning letter. It urges you to make contact. Failure to make contact results in our officer applying to the Magistrates for a committal summons. The summons is to secure the appearance of you before the Court. At Court, our officer will present our case for us. Our officer will refer to all necessary evidence. You will have the chance to explain why you did not pay, as demanded. The officer will ask that the Magistrates find you guilty of not paying Business Rates. The officer will request that you receive a term of imprisonment, in line with current guidelines. The Court's decision is final. The Magistrates have the option of:

  • Committing to prison; or
  • Remitting part, or all the debt; or
  • Making an order for payments by weekly, or fortnightly, or monthly instalments.

Statutory provisions covering the enforcement of Business Rates

Non-Domestic Rating (Collection and Enforcement Regulations 1989) contains the statutory provisions.

Last updated: Tuesday, 27 September, 2022.