All customers are initially requested to pay in accordance with the law, which is the timescale given on their demand notice(s) or tenancy agreement obligations. Where this is not complied with, a written reminder is sent.
Staff will always seek to make realistic arrangements to clear outstanding amounts by regular payments, in preference to taking legal action for recovery.
Reminders should always convey a willingness to discuss matters with customers and encourage them to make contact if they cannot pay as requested on a reminder letter. They will also make the customer aware of the consequences of failing to keep to arrangements.
The initial intention of arrangements to pay will be to clear the debt as soon as possible and within the financial year. Payment arrangements can be extended past this if the customer’s circumstances necessitate this. A financial statement can be requested to support a request for an arrangement which will run into the next financial year.
The customer will be warned about the level of court costs that will be incurred if court action is taken. This will normally be in the correspondence sent out before a Summons is issued i.e. court warning letter for Rents and Sundry Debt accounts and reminder or final notice for Council Tax.
A Liability Order will be sought where instalment arrangements (statutory or otherwise) have not been kept to and the relevant notices have been sent.
A Summons will not be issued if a Council Tax Benefit claim is waiting to be processed and the claimant is in receipt of Income Support or Income Based Jobseekers Allowance. In the case of other Council Tax Benefit claims, the customer will need to contact the Local Taxation Office and discuss their account. If the customer has been asked to make payments based on a benefit calculation they will be expected to ensure that these payments are made. The account can then be held whilst the claim is waiting to be assessed.
If a Council Tax Benefit appeal is pending, legal action will not be taken on the arrears in question. However an arrangement must be made to cover any ongoing bills if the customer is not appealing against the current CTB assessment.
If a Summons is issued, and then an arrangement to pay is agreed, the Court will still be asked for a Liability Order to protect the Council’s interest. The costs incurred will be due in full but these may be waived or reduced in exceptional circumstances.