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Summons and Liability Order

If you are sent a summons you are in the very small minority of people who have not paid on time. Over 98% of Ashford council tax was paid last year.

A summons is issued with the authority of the court.  It gives at least 14 days notice of the date of the court hearing and explains that the council intend to ask the Magistrates to grant a Liability Order for the amount of council tax outstanding plus costs.

You do not need to attend the court hearing but may do so if you wish to dispute the application for the Liability Order. Please note that the Magistrates can not consider disputes such as financial difficulties, an outstanding appeal against your banding or an outstanding discount, exemption or council tax support application. If you feel you have a valid dispute against the issue of a Liability Order please contact the council immediately as there are very few defences against the making of a Liability Order which can be considered.

If payment of the TOTAL AMOUNT DUE as shown on the summons (which includes costs) is made before the hearing date, the application for a Liability Order will not proceed.

If you cannot pay the TOTAL AMOUNT DUE as shown on the summons before the hearing date but wish to propose a payment plan to clear the debt please complete and return the form that was enclosed with the summons or complete the online council tax summons form. Please note that if we agree an arrangement, we will still ask the court to grant a Liability Order. This is done to protect the council's interests. Costs incurred (a total of £125.00) will be included in any arrangement to pay. The council will notify you if your offer to clear the arrears is acceptable.

We can be fairly flexible, in that the arrangements can be weekly, fortnightly or monthly, but we may not accept your offer of payment if it will take too long to clear the amount owed.  If the arrangement is accepted by a recovery officer and maintained by the liable person(s) no further action is required.

If you don't get in touch with us we will decide what to do without discussing with you. However, we would prefer to help you to pay in a way that suits both of us with consideration given to your individual circumstances. 

Please note that if we agree an arrangement, we will still ask the court to grant a liability order (which will incur additional costs of £65).  This is done to protect the council's interests.  All costs incurred (a total of £125) will be included in any arrangement to pay.

Difficulty paying?

If you are having difficulty paying please contact us immediately. There are lots of agencies that offer advice on managing money, budgeting and debt management. It is important that people who need help seek it from reputable organisations who offer free, impartial and accurate advice. Some advice agency contact details are below, this list isn't exhaustive, others are available:

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Liability Order

If, on the date of the hearing, the TOTAL AMOUNT DUE as shown on the summons has not been paid in full, an officer will attend the court to present the council's case.

You don’t need to go to the court hearing unless you have a legal defence against the issue of a liability order but may do so if you wish. The magistrates will hear the case whether you attend or not.

If you are thinking about going to court, please contact us first to see if we can help.  It may not be possible to resolve your dispute at court and may lead to an adjournment. It is important to save the courts time and is reasonably expected that if any of the situations listed below apply to you (or you think they may apply) that you contact the council for clarity prior to the hearing as it may be possible to resolve your enquiry without having to attend court. If you are not satisfied with our response then you can still attend court and make your case to the Magistrates.

  • The property is not entered in the appropriate valuation list
  • The council tax has not been properly set
  • The council tax has not been billed in accordance with the legislation
  • The amount demanded has been paid in full (including summons costs)
  • More than six years have passed since the balance became due
  • Bankruptcy proceedings have been started
  • You are not the person who is liable to pay the council tax that you have been summonsed for

It is not a valid defence against the issue of a liability order if:

  • You assert that a bill / reminder has not been received - we do not have to prove that you have received notices
  • You can’t afford to pay the amount owed in full
  • You want to make a payment arrangement
  • You have applied for council tax support and have not heard anything
  • You are appealing against a decision for council tax support entitlement or to the Valuation Office Agency about the amount of your council tax or your property band

A liability order gives the council the authority of the court to recover monies by the following methods:

Attachment of earnings

Where the council are aware that a debtor is in employment, we can send two orders at any one time.

If you are an employer and have received a Council Tax Attachment of Earnings Order (CTAEO) for one of your employees and require further guidance, please refer to the Attachment Orders, A Guide for Employers Handbook [pdf] 644KB which is issued by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service.

Deductions from benefit

Where a Liability Order has been obtained the council may apply for deductions to be made from certain benefits. Deductions can be made from Universal Credit, Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit or Employment and Support Allowance.

Enforcement action

We may use enforcement agents (formerly known as bailiffs) to recover the debt.

  • Stage 1 – This results in a fee of £75 for each instruction that is passed by the council to an Enforcement Agent
  • Stage 2 – A fee of £235 covers all work carried out but a further charge of 7.5% of any debt value over £1,500 will also be applied
  • Stage 3 – A fee of £110 plus 7.5% of any debt value over £1,500

The new enforcement agent regulations include:

  • The introduction of a seven-day notice of enforcement, designed to encourage early payment or an additional opportunity for those who owe the council money to seek advice
  • Changes to the days and hours when enforcement action can take place
  • Changes to how an enforcement agent may access a property
  • Making it compulsory for the enforcement agents to give debtors certain information when a 'controlled goods agreement' is made
  • How the sale of any goods seized will be handled
  • A new set of fees that enforcement agents must use

Regulations can be read online:

Our Agents

The agents listed below are authorised to act on behalf of Ashford Borough Council.  Always quote your account number when making contact with an Enforcement Agent.  Once instructed, the Enforcement Agent takes full responsibility for collecting the debt and it is the council's decision not to interfere with their operations.

Chandlers Ltd

Make a payment:  0845 527 7958 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

Newlyn Plc

Payments:  01604 625136 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

Stanford & Green Limited

Tel:  01622 683308

Rossendales Ltd

Tel:  0844 701 3980

Bankruptcy

If you owe more than £5,000 and a Liability Order has been granted against you, we can start bankruptcy proceedings. The consequences of bankruptcy are severe

  • Typically, a debt can increase by tens of thousands of pounds. You will be liable for the legal fees and disbursements incurred in this process
  • Your credit rating will be affected
  • Your assets will be seized and you could lose your home

Charging order

If a Liability Order has been granted against you we may apply for a Charging Order. The council can, in certain circumstances, force the sale of a property subject to a charging order, to recover monies owed. You will be liable for the substantial legal fees and disbursements incurred in this process.

Committal to prison

If you do not pay the Enforcement Agent we may apply to the Magistrates' Court for a 90 day prison sentence (warrant of commitment).

  • £305 will be added to the debt for making an application for a Warrant of Commitment
  • £145 will be added for making an application for a Warrant of Arrest

What help is available

If you are having difficulty paying please contact us and explain the situation - the longer you ignore a debt problem the worse the situation becomes.

There are lots of agencies that offer advice on managing money, budgeting and debt management. It is important that people who need help seek it from reputable organisations who offer free, impartial and accurate advice. Please take this opportunity to seek advice and assistance for your particular needs now. Some advice agency contact details are below, this list isn't exhaustive, others are available:

Ashford Borough Council also has two Welfare Intervention Officers whose job is to support people who need help with welfare reform changes.

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