Business rates payment problems and the recovery process 

The law says you must pay Business Rates by the due date. We will usually take action to recover what you owe us if you get into arrears.

This means it's important to contact the Business Rates team immediately if you can’t afford to pay your Business Rates bill. We might be able to help.

It's also important to pay attention to any reminder notices we sent you, because you might have to pay legal costs as well as the rates you owe if we take action against you.

It can take several days for payments to reach us, so you must allow enough time to make sure each payment is with us by the date it’s due. 

You must still pay the amount on the bill we have sent if you are waiting to hear from us about a rate relief application or are in discussion with the Valuation Office Agency about the Rateable Value for the property. Once the decision has been made, you'll get a new bill that takes into account any overpayment.  

To pay the amount due now, you can  pay your Business Rates online or call our 24 hour payment line on 0300 123 5039. You will need your debit or credit card and your Business Rates account number. 

Business Rates recovery process

The first time you are late with a Business Rates payment

We will send you a Reminder Notice if you don’t pay your Business Rates on time. You must pay the amount due within 7 days. You will lose the right to make future payments by instalments if you don’t pay within 7 days. This means you must then pay the full year’s balance within the next 7 days.

You should  contact the Business Rates team straight away if you get a reminder notice from us when you think you have already paid. 

To pay the amount due now, you can pay your Business Rates online or call our 24 hour payment line on 0300 123 5039. You will need your debit or credit card and your Business Rates account number. 

If you are late with a Business Rates payment more than once in the same financial year (1 April to 31 March)

If you have paid late once and then don't pay on time another time, you will get a Final Notice. This means you lose the right to make future payments by instalments. You must then pay the full year’s balance within the next 7 days.

If we say you must pay the full year’s balance and you don’t do so

We can serve a summons if you don’t pay the total amount shown on the reminder or Final Notice within 7 days. This means a date will be set for a court hearing. The cost of serving the summons will be added to your debt. You can stop the recovery proceedings by paying the full amount on the summons before the date of the hearing.

If we serve a summons on you 

The case will go to court if you don’t pay in full before the date of the hearing. If you can't pay in full you should contact us to make arrangements about paying the outstanding amount. The case will still go to court, but we won't take any further action against you if we have agreed a payment plan and you are making payments by the agreed dates. 

You don’t need to go to the court hearing if you accept that you owe the amount outstanding. The court can't take account of your financial situation or discuss payment with you.

If you believe you have already paid or that someone else is responsible for paying, you can contact us. If we agree with you, we will stop proceedings. It will save you time and money if you talk to us before this stage if you don't think you should be paying the amount.

When Business Rates cases go to court, we ask the court to make a Liability Order. The Liability Order allows us to take action to recover what you owe us. The cost of making the order is added to what you owe. You must still pay this extra cost even if you have made a payment arrangement. 

After the court hearing

If we have agreed a payment plan with you, we will only enforce the Liability Order if you miss a payment. We can enforce a Liability Order straightaway if we have not agreed a payment plan with you.

Actions we can take include bringing in enforcement agents (bailiffs), and starting bankruptcy or winding up (liquidation) proceedings.

Enforcement agents (bailiffs)

Enforcement agents were previously called bailiffs. Enforcement agents are certificated by the County Court. This certification must be renewed every two years. This is an independent process, and it is one that agents take seriously. 

A court certification process reinforces the fact that agents act as appointed officers of the court, and agents take pride in the fact that they are certificated by a judge. This ensures good conduct and upholds professional standards.

The enforcement sector employs close supervision and constant monitoring to ensure that standards of conduct are without reproach. 

All enforcement agents are required to pass an exam to qualify for certification and the final decision is made by a judge. The exam tests an agent’s knowledge of the law as well as the industry standards they must meet. 

Agents wear body-worn cameras to record their visits on film. Film footage is constantly reviewed to monitor agents’ conduct and performance. This includes checking that agents are adhering to standards of privacy, such as not filming minors and or personal information such as credit card details. 

Agents’ vehicles are often tracked by satellite and their phone use can be monitored and call centre calls are recorded.

The Enforcement Process

If you have not paid a debt, it is tempting to ignore letters and calls. But this might add more costs. Always reply to attempts to contact you. You may be able to make an arrangement to pay.

1. Liability Order given to enforcement company

The liability order may be given to an enforcement agent or enforcement company to recover the debt. If so, a fee of £75 is added to the amount owed.

2. Compliance stage

The first step in the enforcement process is the compliance stage where you are sent a ‘Notice of Enforcement’. This gives details of:

  • The outstanding debt
  • How and when to pay by
  • What happens if you don’t pay
  • The extra fees you could then also expect to pay
  • Contact details for the enforcement agent or company
  • Contact details for free debt advice

You will have at least seven days (not including Sundays or Bank Holidays) before any further action is taken by the enforcement agent or company, unless a court has decided otherwise.

At this point you should contact the enforcement agent or company immediately to arrange for payment to be made to them.

Once a debt is with an enforcement agent, you are required to pay them, rather than Cheshire East Council. If you are unable to pay you should still call the enforcement agent or company and explain why.

Your ‘Notice of Enforcement’ also includes contact details for free debt advice services, so if you’re having difficulty then it might be a good idea to get in touch with them.

3. Enforcement stage

If the enforcement agent or company doesn’t hear from you by the date stated, they will move the matter to the enforcement stage. This means you’ll have at least one visit from an enforcement agent to arrange payment, and an additional £235 (plus 7.5% of the original debt over £1500) will be added to the amount owed. 

The enforcement agent will carry their enforcement agent certificate and photographic ID.  They are not obliged to inform you of the precise date and time of a visit. It could be anytime from 6am – 9pm on any day including Sundays, and religious or public holidays. 

Sometimes the enforcement agent will enter into a controlled goods agreement with you. This means a list is drawn up of what could be removed at a later date if you do not come to an alternative arrangement. Making a controlled goods agreement gives you a final chance to pay your debt rather than having your goods removed. 

4. Sale stage

If full payment is not made you risk having your possessions removed for sale by the enforcement agent. This is the sale stage.

A fee of £110 (plus 7.5% of the original debt over £1,500) is added to the amount owed to cover costs for moving the possessions so they can be sold.  Additional (actual) costs for other expenses, such as hiring a locksmith, storing goods or auction costs, may be applied.  Further expenses are limited and must be approved by the court.

Breathing Space

If you are a sole trader struggling with debt and financial management, you may be eligible for a period of respite where your creditors cannot take action to collect your debt known as ‘Breathing Space’. This is not something we can arrange for you. You should contact one of the organisations listed below for more information on the qualification criteria and details on how to apply (Limited Company debts are not eligible for inclusion in Breathing Space):

Breathing space
OrganisationContact details
StepChange Debt Charity StepChange
Phone: 0800 138 1111
Cheshire East Citizens Advice Bureau Cheshire East Citizens Advice Bureau
Phone: 0808 812 6186 
Monday to Thursday from 9.30am to 4pm and Friday 9.30am - 1pm
Christians Against Poverty Christians Against Poverty
Phone: 0800 328 0006
Calvary Christian Centre
National Debtline National Debtline
Phone: 0808 808 4000
Monday-Friday: 9:00am to 9:00pm
Saturday: 9:30am to 1:00pm
Lifeline Lifeline
Phone: 01270 750358

If you enter a period of Breathing Space, most of your debts will be protected to allow you time to enter a debt solution such as a Debt Relief Order, Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) or repayment plan. During Breathing Space, you may still receive Business Rates bills if:

  • you move in or out of a property
  • you occupy another property
  • your entitlement to a Business Rates reduction changes
  • a new Financial Year begins

You will need to make payment as requested on the bill, but do not need to worry about any debt you have included in your Breathing Space application. Once your Breathing Space ends, if you have not entered a formal debt solution, we will write to you. To avoid further recovery action you should Contact the Business Rates Team to discuss your case immediately. 

Bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings

Where there is a Liability Order in place with an outstanding balance of £3,000 or more, we can start winding up (liquidation) proceedings. Where the outstanding balance is £5,000 or more, we can start bankruptcy proceedings.

Contact Business Rates

Contact us

Customer Service Business Rates Team available for telephone enquiries:
Monday - Friday, 9:00 - 13:00

0300 123 5013

Revenues Service
Cheshire East Council
PO Box 622


Page last reviewed: 18 April 2024