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Recovery and enforcement

Provisions covering the enforcement of Council Tax are contained in the following:

  • Local Government Finance Act 1992 ("the Act"); and
  • Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 ("1992 Regulations").

We will begin collection of Council Tax when a liable person fails to pay the amount due. The amount due can be on a reminder or final notice.

Joint and several liability

Where there are several people liable to pay Council Tax, each person is responsible for the full amount. Any arrangements about who pays what percentage of the bill are between the payers. Three joint tenants of a property may agree that each will pay one third of the bill, if two tenants make payments but the third does not, all three tenants will receive the reminder. We will take further action against all or any one of the three tenants if required. It is usual for the bill to be in joint names. An example could be Mr and Mrs 'X', or Mr 'A', Mr 'B' and Miss 'C'. Each named person on the account receives a Summons and each named person on the account receives a Notice of Liability Order.

First and second reminders

All liable persons named on the original bill will receive the reminder. There will be only one reminder per dwelling. You will get a reminder notice if we do not receive a payment, or there are insufficient payments made. This will require payment within seven days. We only issue two reminders in any financial year. If you fail to pay an instalment on a third occasion in the year, you will receive a final notice for the full balance outstanding for the year.

First reminder

If you pay the overdue amount by the date specified, you may continue to pay by monthly instalments. If you do not pay the overdue amount by the date specified, you will receive a Court Summons.

Second reminder

If you pay the overdue amount by the date specified, you may continue to pay by monthly instalments. If you do not pay the overdue amount by the date specified, you will receive a Court Summons.

Final notice

A final notice explains that you have lost the right to pay by instalments. You must pay the balance for the financial year in full. You will receive encouragement to bring the instalments up-to-date and to start paying by direct debit.

Summons stage

We will take recovery action against you to ensure that you pay your Council Tax in full. We will make a complaint to the North Cumbria Magistrates' Court. This allows for a Summons with the authority of the Court. This gives you at least 14 days' notice of the date of the Court hearing. The Council Tax Summons explains to you that we intend to ask the Magistrates to make a Liability Order. This is for the Council Tax outstanding, and the costs incurred. We will agree with the Magistrates beforehand the amount due. You have the option to appear in Court to dispute the making of the Liability Order. If you pay the full amount, including costs, before the day of the Court hearing, the 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.

Liability order

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

  • Attachment of Allowances;
  • Attachment of Earnings;
  • Attachment of Benefits;
  • Use of Enforcement Officers (Bailiffs);
  • Committal to Prison;
  • Insolvency; or
  • Charging Order.

If, on the date of the hearing we do not receive payment in full, we will attend the Court to present our case. We will have to prove that we followed all necessary procedures. It is normal practice to ask for Liability Orders in bulk. If you attend Court to dispute the evidence, you can put your case forward. If the Magistrates agree that you have not followed the necessary procedures, the Magistrates will make the Liability Order. Liability Orders are for our sole use and remain our property.

Request for information

The Request for Information requires that we receive certain information from you. Information is required within 14 days. Failure to supply the information, or to supply false information, is a criminal offence. If found guilty, it carries a substantial fine. You can enter into an arrangement with us to clear the outstanding balance by the end of the financial year. If you maintain this arrangement, we will not take further action. If you do not, we will send a reminder. We may follow this with a Summons. The Summons is either hand-delivered by a Recovery Officer, or posted by Recorded Delivery. We will send you a further Request for Information form. It will give you another chance to supply the information. If you comply before the Court date, we will withdraw the case. If we do not receive the information, the Magistrates will hear the evidence and may impose a fine and award costs on our behalf.

Local arrangements

Local arrangements are offers of payment made to us to clear the outstanding Council Tax by the end of the financial year. Arrangements can be weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. If we accept the arrangement, there will be no further action. If you fail to maintain the arrangement, we have several options at our disposal as to how to recover the money.

Attachment of earnings

If you make an arrangement, which fails, or you do not offer to pay, we can attach your earnings by sending the necessary documentation. Your employer must comply with the Order. Your employer must deduct a percentage of your earnings, in line with legislation. If your employer fails to comply with the Order, we may prosecute.

The Attachment of Earnings Order Procedure (the Order)

Your employer will receive a copy of the Order. They can request further information from us. Your employer has to apply the Order as instructed. Your employer must send the deducted money to us by the 19th of the following month. Until you clear the debt, the Order will run.

Attachment of Benefits

If an arrangement fails, or is not offered, we can attach certain benefits that you may be receiving. The decision to do so rests with the Department for Work and Pensions. They will be aware of what you are receiving and whether the attachment is acceptable. We can attach:

  • Income Support;
  • Job Seeker's Allowance;
  • Employment Support Allowance;
  • Guaranteed Pension Credit;
  • Universal Credit.

Attachment of Allowances

This relates only to Elected Members of:

  • The District Council;
  • The County Council; or
  • The Police and Crime Commissioner.

We have an option to attach up to 40% of a Member's allowance.

Enforcement Officers (Bailiffs)

If an arrangement fails, or is not offered, we can consider sending your case to the Enforcement Officers. Before doing so, we will send you a warning letter and Schedule of Costs. Enforcement Officers will receive your debt in 14 days if you do not. The Schedule of Costs sets out the potential monies involved should the Enforcement Officers deal with the case. If the Enforcement Officers receive your case, you must deal directly with them. We will only intervene in exceptional circumstances.

Return from Enforcement Officers (Bailiffs)

If the Enforcement Officers are unable to recover the monies, we will receive the account back with the reason why. This is a certificated Nulla Bona. At this stage, we will write to you advising you of the intention to take you to Court for committal proceedings. You will receive a Council Tax last chance letter. Even at this stage, we direct you to pay by instalments. This time, however, we tell you what amount we expect to be paid.

Bankruptcy

We may consider Bankruptcy if we have information that your outgoings far exceed your income. The first stage of this action requires that we serve a statutory demand on you. The County Court (Carlisle) will receive a formal petition. We will notify you and give you leave to defend the petition. If you accept the petition, the amount on the Liability Order is non-recoverable. This applies to all other debt owed to us. This can potentially be up to the financial year-end.

Charging Order

If an arrangement fails, or is not offered, a Charging Order may be considered. This means that the Judge will receive a Liability Order from us and may place a charge against your property. When you sell your property, we receive the monies owed. In certain circumstances, we will force a sale of your property to satisfy your debt.

Committal Proceedings

We will carry out a thorough review of the whole case if you ignore our last chance offer. If we take the case to Court, you will receive a committal to prison warning letter. The letter will tell you that we intend to begin 'committal to prison' proceedings. It will urge you to make contact. Failure to make contact will result in us applying to the Magistrates for a Summons to appear before the Court. There are significant costs involved. We will add a minimum of £240 to your debt. At Court, we will present our case and will refer to all necessary evidence. You will have the chance to explain to the Magistrates why you have not paid. We will ask the Magistrates to find you guilty in not paying your Council Tax. We will ask that you be given a term of imprisonment. This is in line with current guidelines. The Court's decision is final. The Magistrates can:

  • Commit you to prison;
  • Remit the debt; or
  • Make an Order for payments by instalments.
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