Council Tax Arrears and Sheriff Summary Warrants Explained

January 10, 2016

Set procedures exist for the recovery of council tax arrears in Scotland. If the initial and final council tax reminders are not paid, or you do not respond to the communication, it is likely that a Summary Warrant will be received from the sheriff’s office.

A Summary Warrant is a formal statement detailing how much money you owe, and informing that this amount is now due to the sheriff’s office rather than your local council. To help you understand your situation, below is a short timeline of possible communications and reminders.

Initial reminder

Missing one of your council tax instalments will result in a reminder, giving you seven days in which to pay. Should you fail to make payment in this timescale, the entire amount becomes due. Defaulting on three payments within a financial year will lead to the automatic removal of your right to pay by instalments.

Final notice for payment

Should you fail to pay an instalment, even after a reminder, a final notice will be received for the total annual amount. This gives you 14 days to either pay what is due, or to arrange a new repayment schedule by contacting the council directly. The original instalment scheme is now no longer available to you.

Summary Warrant

A Summary Warrant is essentially a certificate that confirms how much you owe in council tax. The sheriff’s office increases the total amount by 10% to reflect the fact that they have taken over responsibility for chasing the debt. The Summary Warrant will tell you who to pay, as well as how much.

On receipt of a Summary Warrant, it is highly advisable to contact the sheriff’s office noted on the document as soon as possible, to arrange a new repayment schedule. Failure to do so will mean enforcement action being taken against you.

When considering how much to offer by way of repayment, it is better to pay a smaller amount over an extended period of time if possible, so that you do not get into further financial difficulty.

What happens if you receive a charge for payment?

A charge for payment will be sent out if you fail to contact the sheriff office noted on your Summary Warrant. You have 14 days to pay, after which time enforcement action may be taken against you. This could potentially include arrestment of your earnings, or money in your bank account.

Sheriff officers may also be entitled to seize non-essential goods from your home if they are granted an Exceptional Attachment Order. You can apply for extra time to pay, however, which could postpone any planned enforcement action and give you valuable time to seek professional debt advice.

We can help if you have received a Summary Warrant and are unsure about how to proceed. Scotland Debt Solutions provides guidance on how to deal with debt, and can let you know the extent of sheriff officer powers in Scotland. We have offices throughout the country, and offer a free initial meeting.