If you’re worried about paying your Council Tax, the first step is to make sure you’re claiming all the discounts you’re entitled to. For example, you may be entitled to pay less or no Council Tax, if you are the only adult in the property or if you’re disabled or on a low income. Your council should tell you whether you qualify for any of these.
Contact your council if you’re struggling to pay your Council Tax. If you’re not behind with your payments but money is tight and you normally pay your bill by direct debit, the council may let you pay over 12 months, if you’ve chosen to pay over ten months.
If you miss a Council Tax payment, you should contact your council straightaway. The earlier you do that the more options may be available. The council may let you pay in smaller amounts through a payment plan. Don’t ignore letters from your council if you owe Council Tax, because they could go to court or send bailiffs to your home if you don’t pay what you owe.
The high price of energy has put extra pressure on household budgets and an increasing number of people are getting into arrears, but there may be support that could help you.
If you’re having difficulty paying your gas and electricity bills, speak to your energy supplier as soon as you can. There are rules in place that say they have to try to help you pay back what you owe. They should, for example, agree a payment plan with you to help spread the cost. You can also ask for more time to pay or a break in your payments.
There are also schemes to help you if you can’t afford to make your payments or if you’re on a prepayment meter and you can’t afford to top it up. Contact your energy provider as they will be able to tell you more about them.
Energy companies were banned from fitting prepayment meters for several months, and under new rules taking effect from November 8th, companies can't force someone to have a prepayment meter if, for example, they are aged 75 or over or have young children.
You can also find out more about what to do if you’re struggling with energy bills and what grants and benefits are available from energy suppliers on the Citizens Advice website.
If you’re worried about your water bill, speak to your supplier as soon as you can. Many water companies run schemes which may be able to help you pay your bills. If you’re not already on a water meter, you may save money by having one fitted. Not everyone saves with a water meter, but it could be worth looking into. There’s a calculator on the Consumer Council for Water’s website that can help you work out whether you’ll save with a meter, or your water company should be able to tell you.
The WaterSure scheme limits water bills and is open to customers with a water meter who are on certain benefits as well as those who have a large family or a particular medical condition, which means they need to use more water.
Water companies also offer social tariffs, which could reduce the cost of a bill by up to 50%. The rules on who qualifies and how much help you get varies between suppliers, so check what yours offers. You can find out more about social tariffs and other help available on the Consumer Council for Water website.
Broadband and/or TV package
If you’re struggling to pay for your broadband, you may qualify for a low-cost social tariff, costing as little as £15 a month. This is normally available to people on Universal Credit, but some providers offer these cheap deals to people on other benefits as well. Social tariffs may not offer the same speeds as your current package, so check that you will be able to do what you need to do, before switching to one.
You can find out what your broadband provider offers by going onto the Ofcom website, or by talking to your supplier. If your supplier doesn’t offer a social tariff, you may be able to switch to one that does.
If you don’t qualify for a social tariff and can’t switch to another provider, or don’t want to, find out if there’s a cheaper deal available and if you can set up a payment plan to pay back what you owe.
Getting more help with arrears
If you have other debts or bills that you are struggling with, it’s a good idea to contact a free to use debt advice service, such as StepChange, Citizens Advice or National Debtline, which you can normally do online or by phone. They’ll be able to talk you through the best way to deal with your debt. If you’re in arrears on your mortgage, you should definitely get in touch with a debt advice charity straight away if your mortgage lender says it’s applying to court, you’ve been sent court papers for repossession or if you’ve been told that bailiffs are being sent to your home.
If you’re in arrears on your bills, the most important ones to pay are what’s called ‘priority debts’. These include payments like rent or mortgage, Council Tax, water and energy. That’s because the consequences of not paying could be very serious; for example, you could lose your home if you can’t pay your rent or mortgage.