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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Avoiding rates arrears

Get advice as soon as possible if you can't pay. The Land & Property Services have a strict procedure for recovering rates arrears. There are strict time limits. If you contact your local Land & Property Services office, you may be able to negotiate a payment plan.

If you rent your home from a private landlord, check that you are responsible for paying your rates. Contact the Land and Property Services immediately if you think you may not be responsible for paying the rates.

Reminder letter

You will only receive a reminder if you are already set-up to pay your rates by instalments, and your payment is overdue. If you pay the amount overdue within seven day your rates will continue to be paid in instalments.

If you don't pay the overdue amount or contact the Land & Property Services you will be sent a final notice.

Final notice

You will get a final notice if you still haven't paid your rates after forty days. A final notice gives you 10 days to pay the full amount of rates outstanding for the year. You may be able to negotiate a payment plan if you contact your local Land & Property Services office.

If you don't pay the full amount of rates or contact your local Land and Property Services office within 10 days you will be issued with a Process in Debt Proceedings. You won't get any further reminders and you will be charged extra court costs.

Process in Debt Proceedings received

The Process in Debt Proceedings outlines:

  • the full amount of rates owed for the year
  • additional court costs
  • the date for the court hearing.

If you don't pay the full amount to your local office before the date of the hearing your case will go to court.

Negotiating a payment plan

Land & Property Services usually won't agree any payment plans before the court date. Contact an advice agency like Housing Rights if you wish to negotiate a payment plan.

Going to court

You don't have to appear in court but it may be in your best interests to go. You have to appear in court if you wish to dispute the amount that you owe. If you don't show up to court the judgewill normally order you to pay the amount you owe. Speak to an adviser about Housing Rights if you're not sure if you should go to your hearing or not.

If the judge decides that you must pay your rates you will receive a Decree explaining that you must pay. You should contact your local Land & Property Services office to come an arrangement for paying your rates. If you don't contact Land & Property Services, your case will be passed to the Enforcement of Judgements Office.

Enforcement of Judgements

If you don't pay your debt or contact Land & Property Services, the Enforcement of Judgements Office will send you a Notice of Intention. If you don't pay the full amount within 10 days:

  • your credit rating will be affected
  • the Enforcement of Judgements Office will add extra costs.

The Enforcement of Judgements Office can take a range of actions to recover the debt. The recovery actions are:

  • Attachment of Earning order - your employer deducts a small amount from your wages automatically to give to the Enforcement of Judgements Office
  • Order Charging Land - Any money you owe will be paid when you sell the property
  • Garnishee orders - The Enforcement of Judgements Office can ask your bank or building society to hand over money from your account to cover all or part of the debt
  • Seizure orders - The Enforcement of Judgements Office can take some of your possessions which will cover the amount you owe.

Bankruptcy

The Enforcement of Judgements Office can't declare you bankrupt. However, Land & Property Services can start bankruptcy proceedings if you owe more than £5000. Bankruptcy proceedings will cost a lot of money.

Rates were included in monthly rent

You may have already paid rates to your landlord as part of your rent.  Unfortunately, if your landlord has not passed these payments on to Land & Property Services, you will still be held liable for any rates arrears if you are legally liable to pay rates on the property.  If you end up in a situation like this, you will have to pay off the arrears to LPS and will then have to take legal action against your landlord for the return of the money you paid to her/him.  You can take an action in the Small Claims Court if you are claiming £3000 or less.

Check your tenancy agreement carefully.  If your landlord insists that you pay the rates as part of your monthly rental payment, you should insist that the landlord provides you with proof that these payments have been passed to Land & Property Services.  Speak to LPS or to advisers at Housing Rights if you want to find out more about liability for rates in rented accommodation.