Privacy settings

Recovery of unpaid council tax

Council tax is due on the dates shown on your bill. It is important that payments are not late. The council is not only collecting council tax for itself but also for the county council, the Police Authority and the Fire Authority and must make monthly payments itself to these authorities from the council tax payments it receives from council tax payers.

Having difficulty making payments of council tax?


What happens if payments are missed or late?

We will issue a reminder setting out the instalments that are late or unpaid.

If the instalments are not brought up to date within seven days, the full outstanding balance will fall due after a further seven days. The right to pay by instalments will then be lost.

The law only allows for two such reminders to be sent in any year, after which any further failure to pay on time will result in the unpaid balance becoming immediately due. This rule is to prevent the need for constant reminders to be sent as a result of the persistent failure to pay on time.

Arrangements to pay over an extended period

We will consider any proposals from defaulters who wish to make payments over a longer period and will treat each case on its merits. However we will always seek to recover the amount due within the current financial year and will usually protect our position in such cases by obtaining a liability order at the magistrates court.

A liability order is the document issued by the magistrates court which provides for the council to obtain relevant information about the financial and other circumstances of the debtor, and to apply various remedies to obtain the monies due.

Action to obtain a liability order at the magistrates court is started by the issue of a summons. The cost of issuing the summons and the obtaining of a liability order at the magistrates court are charged to the defaulting council tax payer.

Use of enforcement agents

An enforcement agent (formerly known as a bailiff) could be instructed to collect the debt. If an enforcement agent is instructed, extra costs will be added to the amount you owe. The fees are:

  • £75 on each liability order immediately the enforcement agent receives your case (compliance stage). You will have the opportunity to make a payment arrangement with the enforcement agent at this stage, and avoid further costs. Do not ignore their first contact letter
  • £235 (+7.5% if your debt is over £1500) if you fail to pay or make an arrangement at compliance stage and the enforcement agent needs to visit you to collect the debt (enforcement stage)
  • £110 (+7.5% if the debt is over £1500) if the enforcement agent visits with the purpose of removing and selling your goods

The agent may make a list of your goods, but as long as you agree to repay the debt, they will only remove the goods if you do not keep to the agreement.  If the agent removes your goods, they can sell them and use the money to repay the debt.

We use Marstons and Dukes, who offer a range of methods for making payments, including online payments, by telephone, at a post office, by cheque or bank transfer.

Attachment of Earnings Orders - guidance for employers

An attachment of earning order is a legal document and places certain statutory duties on an employer. Please read our guidance note for further information.

Prompt payment of council tax

By taking prompt action against all those who do not pay and protecting the council’s position with those who wish to make an arrangement to pay over an extended period, the council has been able to budget to collect 96% of all collectable council tax.

Prompt payment therefore contributes to lower council tax bills for everybody.


Last updated: 01 June 2023

Lancaster City Council logogram

Cookies policy

This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some of these cookies are essential, while others help us to improve your experience by providing insights into how the site is being used.

Review your privacy settings