Coronavirus: council service information and advice

Information about changes to council services as a result of coronavirus

If you have any difficulty paying your Council Tax please get in touch as soon as you can - we are happy to talk about the situation and discuss a short-term payment plan with you.

We will recover unpaid council tax.

We'll write to remind you that it needs to be paid and, if the money is not forthcoming, will issue a summons for you to attend a hearing at the Magistrates Court.

If the amount summonsed is not paid in full, with costs, after the hearing, or if you do not keep to the payment plan you have arranged with us, there are several other actions we can take.

The consequences of each of these stages are explained below.

If you do not pay your instalments on the due date we will issue a reminder notice. If the missed payments are not then caught up within seven days, you will not only lose the right to pay monthly but the total remaining charge will also become due.


If, after receiving a reminder, you then bring your instalments up to date but subsequently fall behind again, a second reminder will be issued.

If you catch up with your instalments but then fall behind again, you will be issued with a final notice (not another reminder) and will lose your right to pay your remaining council tax by instalments.


The whole remaining debt will then become due within 7 days. Failure to pay after receiving any of these notices will result in a complaint being made to the Magistrates Court for the issue of a summons.


This can result in further recovery action being taken against you. 

A Council Tax summons is issued to you if:

  • you have not paid your Council Tax in accordance with the instalment plan shown on your latest bill AND you have failed to respond to at least one reminder

The full amount shown on the summons, including costs, is now payable by the court hearing date shown on your summons letter. Please be aware that you do not need to attend court.

If you want to dispute the summons you must contact us in writing prior to the court hearing.


If you are having financial difficulty and are not able to pay the full amount by the court hearing date then please contact us to make a payment arrangement. Please note that agreeing to a payment arrangement does not stop court action.

When Portsmouth City Council attends court we will apply for a Liability Order (please see more information about Liability Orders below).

Please see the document 'Important Information about your Summons' (available below) which details how to access money and debt advice  - alternatively visit our page advice services to help with money, debt and benefits.

  • A liability order is a legal document issued by the magistrate's court.
  • You can receive one even if you have set up a payment instalment plan.
  • If you have already agreed an instalment plan then please ONLY complete questions 1 to 6 and return the form to us within 14 days.
  • If you continue to pay your instalment plan as agreed then we will not take any further action against you.
  • If you do not stick to the agreed instalment plan then further action will be taken which is detailed in the below section 'Further recovery action'.
  • If you have been unable to agree an instalment plan with us then please complete the entire document and return to us within 14 days.
  • This will allow us to view your financial circumstances and agree an affordable payment plan with you. If you do not complete this and agree to an instalment plan further action will be taken.


The document 'Important Information about your Summons', available below, details how to access money and debt advice  - alternatively visit our page advice services to help with money, debt and benefits.

If you do not maintain your council tax payments, the council will summons you for payment in full.  If the outstanding debt is not paid, the council will obtain a liability order granted by the Magistrates Court. This liability order allows the council to take any of the following enforcement actions.

Enforcement agent action

New legislation came into force in April 2014 with standard enforcement agent fees.  If they are instructed to recover the outstanding debt, you will be liable for the following fees:

  • Compliance fee - fixed £75
  • Enforcement fee - £235 plus 7.5% of the debt over £1,500
  • Sale of goods fee - £110 plus 7.5% of the debt over £1,500

Enforcement agents (bailiffs) can remove goods belonging to the council tax payer named on the liability order.  Removed items are sold at auction to recover the debt. If this happens, fees will be incurred to cover the cost of, for example, storage and auctioneer fees.

However, if an arrangement to pay can be agreed, the goods can be kept on the premises whilst the outstanding liability is cleared.

Deductions from benefit

The Council can apply to the Department for Work and Pensions to have money deducted from benefits such as Jobseeker's Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Income Support and Pension Credit.

Attachment to your earnings

The Council can order your employer to deduct a regular amount from your wages to recover your unpaid council tax. The amount deducted is based on a percentage of your take home pay. 

Security for unpaid council tax

The Council can make an application to the County Court to secure a charge on a property that has accrued debt. This agreement will include any future council tax due, plus interest.


If the debt is more than £1000, action can be taken to bankrupt an individual or wind up a company.


If the debt is not cleared even after enforcement agent (bailiff) action (for example there were insufficient goods to remove or the enforcement agents were unable to gain entry), then a committal summons can be issued.

The council tax payer on the liability order will then be required to appear in court and give details, under oath, of their financial details. Failure to appear at court will result in an arrest warrant being issued.

If the Magistrate believes that there has been wilful refusal or neglect to pay then the council tax payer can be sent to prison for up to 90 days. The court can also place an order to pay the outstanding debt over a fixed period of time.

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