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i Northern Ireland only

What to do if you cannot pay your rates bill

Your rates bill is a 'priority debt'. There can be serious consequences if you cannot pay.

‘Domestic rates’ are a property tax that homeowners in Northern Ireland pay to Land and Property Services (LPS).

Renters usually have it included in their rent payment.

Check with your landlord if you do not know about yours.

Contact LPS if you fall behind on rates.

  • Rates are a priority debt
  • You need to try to clear your arrears as quickly as possible

Send LPS a copy of your budget showing:

  • How much you have coming in
  • What you have going out

Get expert debt advice if you need help with a budget or are struggling with arrears.

LPS may start court proceedings against you if you do not make a payment arrangement.

This will add extra costs to your bill.

Need rates arrears advice?

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How are rates paid?

LPS sends yearly bills out in March. First payments are due in April.

You can either:

  • Pay your annual bill in full or
  • Split the payment over the year

How are rates calculated?

Rates are calculated by:

  • Taking the value of your house in 2005 and
  • Multiplying this by the domestic rate for your area

The domestic rate has two parts:

  1. The regional rate, set by the Northern Ireland Executive, and
  2. The district rate, set by your local council

The value of your home is used to figure out your property's share of public services like:

  • Education
  • Hospitals
  • Waste management

Am I entitled to a rates reduction or relief?

You may be able to get a reduction in your rates bill if you are entitled to:

  • A 70% lone pensioner discount. This is when:
  • You are over 70 and
  • Live alone
  • A 25% disabled persons’ discount
  • This is if your property has been adapted for someone with a disability
  • An automatic district rates subsidy
  • This is if your household has been affected by significant rises in rates

You could be entitled to housing benefit for rates if all of the following is true for you:

  • You own your home but did not buy it:
  • Through a co-ownership or
  • Rent to buy scheme
  • You are eligible to claim UK benefits
  • You have assets worth less than:
  • £16,000, or
  • Less than £50,000 if you are over state pension age

Your full rates should be covered if you receive:

  • Income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance
  • Income Support
  • The guarantee element of Pension Credit

You are automatically assessed for rates relief if you do not meet all the criteria for housing benefits for rates.

Use our online benefits calculator to see if you can get support.

What happens if I am in arrears or miss a payment?

You are sent a reminder if you miss a payment. It gives you seven days to:

  • Pay the arrears or
  • Get in touch with LPS to make an offer you can afford

If you do not respond or pay, LPS can:

  • Issue a final notice asking for the total rates bill
  • This means you cannot pay by instalments
  • Take legal action against you
  • Pass the debt to the Enforcement of Judgments Office (EJO), or
  • Apply to make you bankrupt
  • This is if you owe more than £5,000

Respond to any notice as soon as you can.

You cannot go to prison for not paying your rates bill. But you sometimes can if you do not comply with the EJO.

A final notice gives you ten days to either:

  • Pay or
  • Contact LPS and make a payment offer

LPS may begin court proceedings if you ignore the final notice. This adds costs to your bill.

You will be sent a process in debt proceedings if LPS start court proceedings.

  • This notice informs you that you are being taken to court
  • It includes:
  • The full amount of rates you owe
  • Any extra costs added to your bill, like court costs
  • The time, date and location of the court hearing

At this stage:

  • The hearing is cancelled if you can pay your full rates bill
  • LPS is unlikely to agree a payment plan if you cannot

The hearing usually takes place at your local magistrates’ court.

The court grants a decree confirming what you owe.

You do not have to attend court unless you want to dispute what you owe.

Seek specialist advice from Housing Rights before your hearing if you are disputing.

LPS will give the EJO the debt to enforce if you do not:

  • Make contact
  • Pay

They can also apply to make you bankrupt if you owe more than £5,000.

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

Contact your local authority if you are having problems with your rates bill.

You can make a complaint if:

  • You are treated unfairly
  • Your rates bill is wrong
  • Your property valuation is wrong
  • Your housing benefits for rates is wrong

Contact LPS directly if you are not happy with the authority’s response.

The NI Direct Government Services website can help you find:

  • Who to contact
  • Information on the complaints procedure

Help with rates debt

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