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 on 01279 446688 or use our online contact form.

You can also get advice from:


If you miss an instalment, we will send you a reminder notice giving you 7 days to pay the overdue amount. If you bring your account up to date within 7 days, we will not take any further action.

If you miss another instalment, we will send you a second reminder (further notice).

We will only send a maximum of 2 reminder notices in a financial year - this runs from 1 April to 31 March.

If you miss a third instalment, you lose the right to pay by instalments and the whole year's Council Tax becomes due.

If you do not pay within a further 7 days after you have received a reminder, the whole year’s Council Tax becomes due.

Final notice

If you do not pay after a reminder, or you miss a third instalment in the year, we will send you a final notice. If you receive a final notice, you lose the right to pay by instalments and you will have to pay the whole year’s outstanding Council Tax.

If you receive a final notice and are struggling to pay, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible to try and arrange a payment plan.

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


If you receive a summons, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.

We issue a summons to apply to the magistrates court for a liability order.

Costs of £50 for the issue of the summons, will be added to your unpaid Council Tax account.

If you do not pay the balance in full by the court hearing date, which will be stated on the summons, the magistrates will normally issue a liability order against you. A further £45 will be added to your account for the issue of this order.

You have the right to appear at the hearing and explain to the magistrates why a liability order should not be issued against you.

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

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 do not 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
  • instruct an enforcement agent to collect what you owe which will incur a fee of £75 - if the agent needs to attend the property this will incur a minimum fee of £235, and if they have to start removing goods this will incur a minimum fee of £110
  • 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