Paying business rates

What happens if I don't pay my rate bill?

Guide

Rates assistance for businesses impacted by COVID-19

The Finance Minister has announced a further £213 million of business rates support in addition to the emergency £100 million rates package to assist businesses impacted by COVID-19. Find out more about COVID-19: Emergency rates package for businesses.

Land & Property Services (LPS) is responsible for collecting rates in Northern Ireland that are due for payment. Payment of rates is a legal obligation. There are a number of measures available to LPS to recover rates that are unpaid.

If you do not pay your rates or contact LPS to make an arrangement to clear your account, you will be taken to court. This will mean:

  • additional costs
  • your credit rating could be affected, and as a result you may not be able to apply for credit or a loan
  • you could be made bankrupt
  • your home could be repossessed

If you are having problems paying your rate bill you should inform LPS immediately. See what happens if I can't pay my rate bill?

What happens if I miss an instalment?

If you pay by monthly instalments and miss a payment, LPS will issue a reminder for the amount due. If you pay this within seven days, the instalment payment option remains in place. If you can't pay the arrears within seven days, you should contact your local LPS rating office, as it may be possible to make different payment arrangements.

If you are not set up for instalments, you will receive a final notice 40 days after the original rate bill was issued.

What happens when I receive a final notice?

When you receive a final notice for payment of your business rate bill, you lose the automatic right to pay by instalments and you have ten days to pay the full amount outstanding. You can however still contact LPS who may be able to agree a suitable payment plan.

If you do not pay the whole amount due or do not make a payment agreement with LPS, they will take you to court by issuing a Process in Debt Proceedings and charge you extra costs without issuing any further reminders.

Court proceedings for unpaid rates

If you receive a process to attend court and pay the full amount and any extra costs before the court date, LPS will not take any further action. If you don't pay the full amount and additional costs, the case will go to the Magistrate's Court on the day stated.

Once proceedings have been issued, LPS cannot make an agreement with you. However, if possible you should continue to make payments to reduce the debt.

Court hearing

You do not have to attend the court hearing unless you wish to dispute the amount or you have a legal matter to bring to the attention of the Magistrate. The court will usually award a decree if you do not attend and you will receive notification of this after the hearing. To avoid further legal recovery action, after you receive this notification you should contact LPS to make an arrangement to pay the outstanding amount.

Enforcement of Judgements

If you are a sole trader and if you do not clear the outstanding amount or make an arrangement to pay this, LPS will issue a Notice of Intention to lodge the debt with the Enforcement of Judgments Office (EJO). If you do not pay the outstanding balance with additional costs within ten days, LPS will lodge the debt for enforcement with the EJO.

Lodgement of the debt with the Enforcement of Judgements Office could result in the following:

  • your name appearing in Stubb's Gazette, which will affect your credit rating
  • additional costs of £150 to £250 depending on the amount outstanding
  • Attachment of Earning Order - where regular payments will be deducted from your salary/wages
  • Order Charging Land - the debt will be recovered if your property is sold
  • Garnishee Order - which can be served on a bank or building society to make it pay out money from your account to clear the debt
  • Seizure Order - which enables the EJO to seize personal property and/or valuables to cover all or part of the debt

Insolvency proceedings

If you are a limited company with debt over £750 or an individual with debt over £5000 and you do not clear the outstanding amount or make an arrangement to pay this LPS can issue a Statutory Demand. If you do not comply with this, LPS will initiate bankruptcy/liquidation proceedings. See managing financial difficulty.