If you miss just one payment on a loan or credit card you might find that you get a volley of calls, emails or letters from creditors chasing your payment.
Some clients pay those creditors who shout the loudest first, irrespective of whether it’s a priority or a non-priority bill.
However non-payment of priority bills such as rent or mortgage could lead you to being homeless and non-payment of council tax could, in some extreme cases, lead to a custodial sentence. These are both more serious scenarios that could escalate quicker than non-payment of a credit card or unsecured loan.
Missing council tax payments
Council tax is a priority bill as it covers the services provided for the house you live in. We often come across people who haven’t paid their council tax for months on end, preferring instead to pay a credit card.
They’re shocked when suddenly they’re hit with a bill from the council informing them that they have lost the right to pay by instalments, the council tax is due forthwith and that non-payment could result in bailiffs taking action.
When the council suggests that bailiffs may take action, they mean real court-appointed bailiffs, not the ‘doorstep collection agents’ sometimes threatened by credit card and loan companies.
This is borne out by the stats: there’s been a 27% increase in the number of people contacting us for help with council tax arrears between 2010 and 2011. Over the same period the size of money owed rose from £675 to £717.
To ensure that you don’t end up at this stage with your council tax payments it’s vitally important that they are treated as a priority from the off. If you find you’re struggling to budget for these repayments here are five tips to make your council tax more affordable.
1. Check if you can spread your payments over 12 months
Although they don’t always advertise or promote the fact, many local councils will allow residents to pay council tax over 12 months. This is particularly relevant if you’re in financial trouble. The Government recently put this forward to help with the cost of living.
To see if your council will extend this to you give your local council tax office a call explaining your circumstances. While you’re on the phone you might also find that…
2. …You may qualify for council tax benefit
Many people think that you can only get reductions on your council tax if you are out of work or claiming other benefits. This isn’t always the case; have a look at this Turn2us information sheet.
We have a handy benefits checker available on our website. You can also have a welfare benefits check if you get debt advice from us over the phone.
3. Check the property you are living in is within the correct band
Homes are put into their banding based on what their value was on the 1st April 1991, not on their valuation in today’s prices.
In some cases your property may have been placed within the wrong band. You can appeal the banding to try and reduce the cost but it’s also worth pointing out that some properties may have been placed in a less expensive band by error. Remember: only appeal if you think it’s going to make your bills cheaper!
4. Do you qualify for single persons allowance or the second adult rebate?
These are two of the most common reductions to your council tax bill. See if you’re eligible. In some cases it’s even possible to backdate a claim if you can prove a genuine reason why you hadn’t claimed these benefits before.
5. Have you had a change in circumstances?
Life moves pretty fast these days and sometimes it’s tough to keep every organisation and authority aware of your current circumstances.
Council tax can be affected by children moving in and out of your property, when people start receiving benefits or if you lose your job. If your situation changes it’s always worthwhile giving the council a call straightaway. The best advice would be to continue to pay the council tax as it is until they get back to you with a revised bill.
If you’re having money worries, are concerned with debt problems or are struggling to work out which bills are most important it could be worthwhile trying our online debt debt system Debt Remedy. It’ll help you with free and impartial advice and offer a solution to your situation instantly.