From April, almost two-thirds (67%) of England’s councils are set to increase their council tax by 4.90 – 5.0%.
However, the pandemic has left many Brits struggling to pay their council taxi pre-hike, with an estimated £700 million being owed to councils.
To help, budgeting fintech website thinkmoney has pulled together a helpful guide for those struggling to pay their council tax.
What should you do if you owe council tax?
Contact your local authority as they can allow you to spread the payments over 12 months as opposed to the usual 10 months. They may also be able to give you a one-off discount if you still can’t pay what you owe in arrears, whilst also checking if you’re eligible for a reduced council tax bill.
How do you prioritise bills?
Priority debts are those that can cause particularly serious problems if you don’t do anything about them, so you should split your debts out into the following, and pay them in that order:
Priorities – Rent/mortgage arrears, council tax, gas or electricity, phone or internet, TV licence, court fines, overpaid tax credits, payments for goods bought on hire purchase, unpaid child maintenance.
Not priorities – credit card or store card, catalogue debts, unpaid water bills, unsecured loans including payday loans, overpayment of benefits, unpaid parking tickets, money you owe friends and family.
What if the bailiffs come to your home?
If you’re struggling to pay your council tax, the most important thing to do is to not stay silent. The council could take you to court or send bailiffs round. If this happens:
You do not have to let them in. At this point, they are not usually legally allowed to use force to enter your home. They will also have to provide proof of who they are and a warrant or a document called a ‘writ’ from a court.
If you let them in, and you can’t afford to pay what you owe straight away, they will make a controlled goods agreement by listing the things in your home that they could sell to pay off your debts and could ask you to sign the list. They will then leave to come back later, in which they are then legally allowed to use force to enter and take the items if you resist. So, we recommend trying to organise any repayments over the phone.
If a bailiff has broken the rules then you can report them to your local council, or if you’re being physically threatened, call the police.
Jonny Sabinsky, head of communications at thinkmoney, said: “Council tax is a worry for so many, and it’s important to understand what to do if you are struggling.
“The first thing you need to do is get in touch with your local authority and explain your situation, as there are a number of things they can look to do to ensure you do not fall into even more arrears. But it’s important that you do not ignore the situation and let the debt build up.
“There are also a number of services available – such as Citizens Advice – that can provide guidance on what you can do when you are struggling with your finances. You just need to remember that there is help available and you are not alone.”
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