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Business rates recovery and enforcement

If you fail to pay the amount due on a Business Rates reminder, or final notice we have sent to you, our Recovery and Enforcement Team will begin the process of trying to recover the money you owe.

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

Summons Stage

At this stage we have decided to take recovery action against the customer to ensure that the Business Rates are paid in full. Firstly, 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 to the customer that we intend to ask the Magistrates to make a Liability Order for the amount of Business Rates outstanding, plus the costs incurred. The customer has the option to appear in Court in person on the summonsed date to dispute the making of the Liability Order.

If payment of the full amount, including costs, is made before the day of the Court hearing, the application for a Liability Order will not proceed.

There are very few defences to the making of a Liability Order. For information on the defences, please contact the Recovery Team.

When a Summons is sent, we include some explanatory notes on the enforcement of the national non-domestic rate (PDF: 21Kb / 2 pages).

Liability Order

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

  • Enforcement Officers
  • Committal to Prison
  • Insolvency

If, on the date of the hearing the amount has not been paid in full, an officer from the Recovery Team will attend the Court to present our case. We will have to prove that all the necessary procedures have been adhered to. It is normal practice to ask for Liability Orders in bulk. However, if an individual does attend the Court to dispute the evidence, he must be allowed to put his case forward. If it is accepted by the Magistrates that we have adhered to the necessary procedures as the law dictates, they have no choice but to make the Liability Order.

After the hearing, and on the same day, the Recovery Team will send out a Notice of Liability Order (PDF: 110Kb / 4 pages) with a Request for Arrangement form.

Request for Arrangement

The 'Request for Arrangement' form asks the customer to enter into an arrangement to clear the outstanding balance by the end of the financial year. If this arrangement is acceptable to us, and is maintained by the customer, no further action is required.

Enforcement Officers (Bailiffs)

If an arrangement fails, or is not offered, the Recovery Team can consider sending a customer's case to the Enforcement Officers. Before doing so, the customer is sent a warning letter (PDF: 84Kb / 2 pages) warning them that the debt will be sent to the Enforcement Officers in 14 days. It includes an option to make an arrangement. Accompanying the letter is a schedule of costs (PDF: 24Kb / 1 page) should the case be dealt with by the Enforcement Officers. 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 (PDF: 157Kb / pages).

At this stage the Recovery Team will write to a customer advising them of their intention to take them to Court for committal proceedings, this is a last chance letter (PDF: 17Kb / pages) and, even at this stage, we encourage them to pay by instalments.


After the making of a Liability Order in the Magistrates' Court, we have several options when considering what action to take against a Business Rates defaulter. Each case is considered on its merits and, if insolvency is to be used, the customer will be served with a statutory notice that clearly sets out what the customer should do next. If the debt is not paid and a satisfactory arrangement is not made within the required timescale, the business will be put into liquidation. If it is a sole trader, they will be made bankrupt. Insolvency is a complex area. For further information, please contact the Recovery and Enforcement Manager on the telephone number below.

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 telling them we now intend to begin committal to prison proceedings; it urges the customer to make contact. Failure to make contact results in the Recovery Court Officer applying to the Magistrates for a summons (PDF: 121Kb / 1 page) to secure the appearance of the customer before the Court. At Court our officer will present the case for us and will refer to all necessary evidence. The customer will have the chance to explain to the Magistrates why they have not paid as demanded. The Court Officer will ask that the Magistrates find the customer guilty of wilful refusal, or culpable neglect, in not paying Council Tax and that they be given a term of imprisonment in line with current guidelines. We are bound by the Court's decision and 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, or making an order for payments by weekly, fortnightly, or monthly instalments, which are monitored by our Court Officer and reported back to the Magistrates on a date fixed by the Court for review.

The statutory provisions covering the enforcement of the Business Rates are contained in the Non-Domestic Rating (Collection and Enforcement Regulations 1989).