What happens if you don’t pay your Council Tax?

If you are having difficulty in making your Council Tax payments you should contact us as soon as possible.

You can also get advice from:


We will send you a reminder notice giving you 7 days to pay if you miss an instalment. If you do not pay within 7 days, you’ll have to pay the whole year’s Council Tax.

If you pay after you have received a reminder, we will send you a second reminder notice if you miss another Council Tax instalment.

You’ll only get a maximum of 2 reminder notices in a financial year - this runs from April 1 to March 31 of the next year.

If you do not pay after a reminder, we will send you a final notice saying you must pay the whole year’s Council Tax.

If at any time, even after you receive a reminder or final notice, you are struggling to pay, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.

Legal demands for payments

If you do not contact us and do not pay after a reminder or final notice, a summons will be sent to you. 

You’ll be summoned to court to explain why a liability order should not be issued against you. Costs of £50 will be added to the unpaid Council Tax bill.

You can avoid this action, if you pay the full amount shown on the summons, including court costs, before the date of the hearing.

Costs of £45 will be added to the unpaid Council Tax bill for the issue of the liability order.

If you cannot pay in full, contact us before the court hearing as we may be able to arrange a payment plan covering what you owe (we will still obtain a liability order).

If you still don’t pay

After the liability order is issued, you should still contact us to try and arrange a payment plan. However, if you do not contact us, we might:

  • ask your employer to pay your unpaid Council Tax directly from your wages or we might request deductions from benefits you get
  • get an enforcement agent (bailiff) to collect what you owe, which will incur a minimum fee of £75, and if you still don't pay could mean your possessions are removed and sold at auction, the cost of which will be added to your total amount owed to the council
  • apply for a charging order against a property you own (if you owe more than £1000) and the amount you owe, plus costs, will be paid when the property is sold
  • take action to make an individual bankrupt if more than £5000 is owed
  • apply to the court to send you to prison for up to 90 days

For more information read the Harlow Council recovery policy (pdf)

Contact information

Revenues and Benefits
Harlow Council
Civic Centre
The Water Gardens
College Square
CM20 1WG
01279 446688