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i The advice on this page applies to residents of Northern Ireland only.

What to do if you can't pay your rates bill

Your rates bill is considered a 'priority debt' as there can be serious consequences if you can't pay.

Nothern Ireland's domestic rates are a property tax that homeowners have to pay to Land and Property Services (LPS). If you're a tenant, the payment is usually included as part of your rent. However, it's worth checking with your landlord if you're unsure about this.

As rates are a priority debt if you fall behind with them it's important to contact LPS and make arrangements to clear your arrears as quickly as possible or before your next annual bill arrives. Send them a copy of your budget detailing your income and outgoings to show them your situation.

If you need help putting together a budget, or if you're struggling to deal with the arrears, we'd recommend getting free, expert debt advice as soon as possible.

If you don’t make any arrangement LPS may start court proceedings against you. If this happens, you’ll have additional costs added to your bill.

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How are rates paid

LPS will send your annual bill every March and your first payment will be due in April. Usually, you can either pay your annual bill in full or split the payment over the year.

How are rates calculated

Rates are calculated using the value of your house in 2005 and multiplying this by the domestic rate for your local area.

The domestic rate is made up of the regional rate, set by the Northern Ireland Executive, and the district rate, set by your local council.

Using the value of your home, your property’s share for public services, such as education, hospitals or waste management is calculated.

Am I entitled to a rates reduction or relief?

You may be entitled to a reduction in your rates bill if one of the following circumstances applies:


  • You’re entitled to a 70% lone pensioner discount if you’re over 70 and live alone
  • You’re entitled to a 25% disabled persons’ discount if your property has been adapted for someone with a disability
  • You’re entitled to an automatic district rates subsidy if your household has been affected by significant rises in rates

If you meet all of the below criteria you could be entitled to housing benefit for rates.


  • You’re a homeowner who did not buy their property through a co-ownership or rent to buy scheme
  • You’re eligible to claim UK benefits
  • You have assets worth less than £16,000, or less than £50,000 if you’re over state pension age

If you receive income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance, Income Support or the guarantee element of Pension Credit your full rates bill should be covered.

If you don’t meet all of the criteria for housing benefits for rates, you’ll automatically be assessed for rate relief which is a means-tested reduction in your rates bill.

You can use an online benefits calculator to find out if you’re eligible for any support with your rates bill.

What happens if I’m in arrears or miss a payment?

If you miss a payment you’ll be sent a reminder, and given seven days to clear the arrears or to get in touch with LPS to make an affordable offer.

If you don’t respond or pay your arrears, LPS can:


  • issue a final notice asking for the total rates bill, meaning you’ll be unable to pay by instalments
  • take legal action against you
  • pass the debt to the Enforcement of Judgments Office (EJO), or
  • apply to make you bankrupt if you owe more than £5,000

It’s important you respond to any notice as soon as possible. Although you can’t go to prison for not paying your rates bill, in rare cases you can if you don’t comply with the EJO .

If you receive a final notice you’ll be given ten days to either pay or to contact LPS and make them a reasonable offer. It’s possible LPS will still agree to a repayment arrangement.


If you ignore the final notice LPS may begin court proceedings against you which will add further costs to your bill.


If LPS start the court proceedings, you’ll be sent a process in debt proceedings, a notice to inform you that you’re being taken to court and contains:


  • the full amount of rates you owe for the year
  • the amount of additional costs added to your bill, including any court costs, and
  • the time, date and location of the court hearing

If you can pay your full rates bill for the year the hearing will be cancelled. If you can’t, it’s unlikely LPS will agree to a repayment arrangement at this stage in the process.

You won’t be expected to attend the hearing – which usually takes place at your local magistrates’ court – unless you plan to dispute the amount you owe. If this is the case, you’ll need to seek specialist advice about from Housing Rights before your hearing.

The court will grant a decree confirming the amount you owe. If you still don’t contact LPS and arrange to clear the debt, they’ll most likely pass the debt to the EJO for enforcement, or apply to make you bankrupt if you owe more than £5,000.

Can I complain if I think my rates bill is wrong?

You should always contact your local authority first if you’re having problems with your rates bill. You can make a complaint if you feel you’ve been treated unfairly, or your rates bill, property valuation or housing benefits for rates is wrong.

If you’re not happy with your local authority’s response, you can contact LPS directly. You can find out who you’ll need to contact about your complaint on the NI Direct Government Services website, as well as information on their complaints procedure.

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Help with rates debt

If you’ve missed any rates payments or you’re struggling to pay arrears, get free debt help now before any further action is taken against you.

You can use our free online debt advice tool or call our Helpline to talk to one of our expert advisors.

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