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Being taken to court for non-payment of council tax

(9 Posts)
MsBrandybuck Tue 08-Sep-09 13:35:44

Court date Friday. Too complicated to go into all the details but we owe only approx. half of the amount outstanding in the summons.

Dh has got confirmation today that we are indeed entitled to council tax benefit. The council are unable to confirm the amount so we are still liable for the full amount plus court costs as far as they are concerned. We can't afford this but at a push we can probably borrow the amount I think we will owe when our claim is properly dealt with.

If I pay this before Friday are we likely to avoid a court judgement against us? Is there anything else we can do? Really could do without this at the moment as I am 38 weeks pregnant and don't want bailiffs turning up when I first get home with our newborn sad.

QueenOfFuckingEverything Tue 08-Sep-09 13:43:44

Yes, pay it if you can and then dispute it with the council - they can't get a judgement against you for money you no longer owe.

Can you not get your MP or someone onto it before Friday? They shouldn't take you to court when they are at least partly responsible for the debt - why haven't you been paid the CTB you are entitled to?

ABetaDad Tue 08-Sep-09 13:56:59

Offer to pay as much as you can now, go to the council and pay it. Write a letter and take that with you along with their letter and explain in your letter what you are paying and why and that you are entitled to the council tax benefit and want them to give you proper figure and to cal off the earing and any collection activity until it is sorted out.

Keep several copies of your letter and their letter. If the ouncil wil not back off, just take the letters to the court with you and show them to the judge.

The council must explain properly what debt you owe. They cannot just chuck a figure at you and demand payment. If you have shown a willingness to pay and have paid what you think you owe a judge will not grant any kind of order against you. He/she may even award costs against the council. Judges know full well that peope are struggling and that creditors are being very unreasonable and unfair.

If possible go with DH to court and sit together to answer questions for the judge. If you come across as a reasonable decent couple doing your best to pay and the council come across as overbearing and incompetent it will count in your favour and against them.

Finally, if you are borrowing, try and borrow from your local credit union and not door step lenders. Local credit unions are like small building societies but not that well known about. They charge very low rates of interest compared to credit cards, door step lenders, banks.

Look up your local one here on the ABCUL website. You or DH may even have a credit union connected to your place of work, a trades union which you are members of or even just your county or local town.

mrspnut Tue 08-Sep-09 14:09:04

Is it a summons for non payment you've been sent? in which case it should be fairly easy to sort out.

Should council tax benefit have covered the whole amount of the bill for this year (and you've just had a renewal) or should you have been paying it and have only recently made an application for council tax benefit?

If you should have been paying it and haven't been then they are right to take it to court. Until a claim is decided they have to work on the basis that you aren't entitled. If it was just a renewal then they should have put a hold on your account to suppress the automatic letters.

What did you do when you got your reminder letters and final notice?

Also the judgment the council are going for is not a CCJ and does not show up on a credit check, it is merely the way that they secure the debt in order to use other collection methods such as bailiffs. All the magistrate will want to know is have the council billed the correct person, have they billed them correctly and has the debt been paid. Most people summonsed to court don't see the magistrate, we used to give out raffle tickets and use all the interview rooms to see people who turned up at court to make payment arrangements with them.

I'd give the council tax department a ring and ask to make a payment arrangement with them to clear any arrears. If you have the money to clear the debt before friday then do, otherwise pay anything (£5 or so) to show willing and make a list of your income and expenditure to show how you can realistically clear the debt.

If you need to know anything else then just ask or CAT me.

scaryteacher Tue 08-Sep-09 22:22:14

As MrsPnut says it is NOT the County Court, but the Magistrates Court. For it to get to a summons, you will have been sent reminders and final notices. The legislation only requires the Council to prove these were sent, not if you received them.

The Council will be seeking a Liability Order for the remainder of the Council Tax outstanding for the rest of the year, and will take away the monthly instalment method of payment. You can come to an arrangement with them to pay, but they will still get the Liability Order and add the costs to your account in case of you defaulting.

Councils prefer to use bailiffs as a last resort as they cost money. Make a reasonable offer and stick to it, and then ask to review it when the CTB is sorted out. The other alternative sometimes used is attachment to earnings or benefits as the employer/DSS sorts that out and deducts the money directly at source.

There is legislation governing how a council can recover arrears of unpaid CTAX ABetaDad, and they don't just 'chuck figures at people'. They have to follow the legislation otherwise they cannot legally recover the money.

Fizzylemonade Wed 09-Sep-09 23:23:58

As mrspnut and scaryteacher have said ring up and discuss a payment arrangement but be aware they will still go for the Liability Order, it just gives them the power to take further action should you fail to stick to the arrangement.

mrspnut is right, the magistrate rarely sees anyone, mainly because we used to go with hundreds of cases at once. Any persons showing up were seen in a little side room and we made a payment arrangement.

Councils do have to follow strict legislation. They just want their money, a steady stream of it is acceptable. Current year 2009/2010 has to be paid within that year so before end of March 2010. Any previous years have a bit more flexibility as the deadline has already passed so to speak.

I know it can seem daunting, but just look how lovely mrspnut, scaryteacher and myself are grin we could be the ones on the end of the phone (if scaryteacher and I hadn't gone onto other things)

You aren't alone, in this current climate there will be shed loads of people who can't pay.

MsBrandybuck Fri 11-Sep-09 05:21:35

Thanks for all the advice smile. We have now paid as much as we can. Hopefully this will nearly pay all of this year's CT once the amount of benefit has been decided. DH's hours were halved in March so we let them know as soon as we had our new amount of tax credits. The housing benefit was changed straight away but we had already been billed for the full amount of council tax. We simply could not afford the installments (the council insist on them being paid over 10 months). So we got behind, they sent a reminder, I phoned up offering to pay something. We have both been told that the claim for CTB was being dealt with but if you just pay something then we won't take any action. We realise now we should have pushed for an answer in writing.

Then the car failed its MOT and we had to spend our emergency bills fund (all of £200) on a car to enable DH to get to work.

What with taxing it and paying an increase in insurance there was no spare cash the next time the council asked for 'something'.

So we got the summons. I phoned once more to be told finally that we were not entitled to anything at all off the CT bill. At this point I threatened going to the local paper and my MP. Within 10 days we received a letter confirming that our claim for CTB had in fact been closed in July 2008 when we first claimed HB. Due to our change in circumstances in March this year they were willing to reopen it.
I had wrongly assumed that HB & CTB were dealt with in tandem as it was where we lived before. This assumption apppeared correct as the CTB dept had all our current figures on their system as opposed to those when the claim was 'closed'. hmm

So here we are. The council have told DH that yes we are eligible for CTB but not how much. My main concern was that we would get CCJs against us. Thanks to those of you in the know on here, I now realise that isn't the case so phew am breathing a huge sigh of relief. Don't think we will get to the court though - will argue the figures with them later if necessary. Have been up since stupid O'clock with twinges so could well be in hospital later today - trying to keep myself busy so please excuse the essay and thanks so much again smile

scaryteacher Sun 13-Sep-09 18:14:57

There's no point going to the Mags Court, they just have to prove they billed you, reminded you, and that you didn't pay as billed. They'll get the LO.

What people don't realise is that the Council are entitled to ask for the entirety of the CTAX in one fell swoop at the beginning of the year. However, most realise that people can't afford to do that, so it's charged over 10 months. This then allows those who have arrears, or are billed late due to banding issues, to have another couple of months in which to pay. So, if I had someone with arrears I could give them Feb and March as well to pay in, which reduced the instalments.

HB and CTB aren't always dealt with in tandem, as you might just be claiming ctb if you own your own place. It's worth checking that!

Good luck with the twinges!

NoahAmin Sun 13-Sep-09 18:22:29

yes ime only the really bad cases getseen

rest dealt with outside.

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