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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 that the Business Rates are paid in full. A complaint is made to the North Cumbria Magistrates' Court. This allows a Summons to be issued with the authority of the Court. The Summons gives the customer 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 the amount of Business Rates outstanding, plus the costs incurred. The customer has the option to appear in Court on the summonsed date. They can dispute the making of the Liability Order.

If payment of the full amount is made 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: 21Kb / 2 pages). There are very few defences to the making of a Liability Order. When a Summons is sent, we include some explanatory notes which includes 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 the amount has not been paid in full, an officer will attend the Court to present our case. We will have to prove that all the necessary procedures have been adhered to. If an individual does attend the Court, he must be allowed to put his case forward. If it the Magistrates accept that we have adhered to the necessary procedures, they will make the Liability Order.

After the hearing, and on the same day, we will send out a Notice of Liability Order with a Request for Information form.

Request for Arrangement form

This form asks the customer to enter into an arrangement to clear the outstanding balance. This must be done by the end of the financial year. If this arrangement is acceptable to us, and maintained by the customer, no further action is required.

Enforcement Officers (Bailiffs)

If an arrangement fails, or is not offered, we can consider sending a customer's case to the Enforcement Officers. Before doing so, the customer is sent an enforcement warning letter. The letter warns the customer that the debt will be sent to the Enforcement Officers in 14 days. It includes an option to make an arrangement. Once the case has been passed to the Enforcement Officers, it is rare we will become involved again.

Return from Enforcement Officers (Bailiffs)

If the Enforcement Officers are unable to recover the monies, the account is returned to us with the reason why. This is known as certificated Nulla Bona.

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


We have several options when considering what action to take against a Business Rates defaulter. Each case is considered on its merits. If insolvency is to be used, the customer will be served with a statutory notice. The notice clearly sets out what the customer should do next. If the debt is not paid and a satisfactory arrangement is not made, the business will be put into liquidation. If it is a sole trader, they will be made bankrupt. Insolvency is a complex area.

Committal Proceedings

If our last chance offer is ignored, a thorough review of the whole case is carried out. If the decision is to take the case forward to Court, a committal warning letter is sent to the customer. The committal warning letter tells the customer we now intend to begin committal to prison proceedings. It urges the customer 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 the customer before the Court. At Court our officer will present the case for us. Our officer will refer to all necessary evidence. The customer will have the chance to explain why they have not paid as demanded. The officer will ask that the Magistrates find the customer guilty of not paying Business Rates. The officer will request that they be given a term of imprisonment, in line with current guidelines. We are bound by the Court's decision. Any alteration to that decision has to be made by the Court itself. The Magistrates have the option of:

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

Statutory provisions covering the enforcement of Business Rates

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