What is a Summary Warrant?

A Summary Warrant is a type of court order and is granted by the Sheriff Court for certain types of debts that are owed to local authorities and HMRC.

They are issued to recover taxes and water and sewage charges and authorise Sheriff Officers to carry out formal legal debt recovery.

Once a Summary Warrant has been issued, HMRC and local authorities may serve on you a Charge for Payment that gives you 14 days’ notice to pay your debts in full. This allows them to legally recover the debt.

Once they have served the Charge for Payment, if you have still not paid, they can use certain types of formal debt recovery processes to recover the debt. These are:

They cannot be used to execute what are known as land diligences, like inhibitions or Adjudications for Debt; although local authorities and HMRC can use the normal court process to use these procedures.

Unlike other court orders, Summary Warrants do not involve a court hearing , so you do not receive a court summons and cannot state a defence.

However, unlike other court orders that are awarded for non-payment of debts, there is no judicial interest applied to Summary Warrant debts (normally this is 8% per annum). Instead there is a one off 10% surcharge applied to the debt.

Time to Pay

When the debt owed is owed to a local authority, you can ask for time to pay, even after a Summary Warrant has been granted, by applying for a Time to Pays Direction. This is a court procedure that can protect you from enforcement action from Sheriff Officers. Time to Pays cannot be used with HMRC debts, but HMRC do have their own rules about payment arrangements.

Alternatively, if you are concerned you will get a Bank Arrestment or Earning Arrestment, you can use the Debt Arrangement Scheme, which can be used with HMRC and Local Authority Debt.

Council Tax Arrears and Summary Warrants

Local Authorities can use the Summary Warrant procedure, but only for council tax, business rates and water and sewage charges. They cannot use it for other debts, such as rent arrears.

You can find out more about how the Summary Warrant procedure is used to recover Council Tax Arrears here.

Can Summary Warrants be used for HMRC Debts?

HMRC can also use the Summary Warrant procedure to recover taxes that are due. They must give you 14 days’ notice before using the summary warrant procedure to allow you a chance to pay the debt or enter into an agreement with them.

Readers Questions

  1. David

    I was recently a student. I was served notice by my landlord, so have to vacate my flat by the 29th November. Due to that, I have been away and have not really visited my flat in Glasgow. When I returned today, I have found a ‘summary warrant notification’ from Scott & Co.

    The amount apparently due is the amount due for the full year.

    I have now informed the council that I am due to move out later this month. Their phone lines are closed, so I have been unable to contact them that way – so have sent an email asking for the bill to be reduced so that I can pay in full.

    How difficult do you think it would be to have the amount amended to only cover until my leaving date? Failing that, if I paid the full amount – will it be difficult to recover the over-payment from Scott & Co (the sheriff officers)?

    Finally, will this be seen as a CCJ/Decree on my credit report?

    I appreciate you taking the time to read this.

    Thanks,
    David

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi David

      It normally isn’t a problem to get a council tax bill adjusted if you move out, as the Council do this routinely.

      However, as you know this isn’t normal times. I can’t tell you what to do , as depending on how long it takes you to get them to adjust the bill, they will continue to pursue you for the full reason. Likewise if you pay the bill off in future, you should be able to get a refund, but how long it may take is anyone’s guess.
      It may be they will not revise the bill until you move out and tell them where you will be living, so once you move out and notify them again. If your emailing them make sure you keep a copy, so you can fall back on it if there is a dispute. If the Council don’t revise the bill after a reasonable period of time make a complaint. If necessary you can then go to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman.
      Summary Warrants and Council Tax doesn’t affect your credit rating.

  2. Matt

    I moved out of a property on 1st Feb 21 and notified the council. 7 months later (10 August) I received a bill for council tax to 9 March. I contacted the council tax to ask why and they said the landlord tild them I was liable until 9 March. I told them that wasn’t true and asked me to provide evidence of my move out date of 1st February. So I sent them a copy of the letter of notice and an email from the landlord saying she had returned the deposit in full. Despite this, the council emailed on 14 September and said ‘the landlord confirmed you are liable/’ therefore the bill is yours. No explanation other than ‘the landlord confirmed…’. I emailed them back on 21 September (today) to explain and to also provide my bank statement showing the deposit returned then in the post this afternoon I got a summary warrant – they sent this just 2 days after their email 14 September. I dont know what to do – if they still didnt accept my date, my intention was to ask for a review of the decision by a manager or request review by Valuation Appeals Committee. Should I pay, email. appeal? What are my rights. Surely I am allowed scope time to contest this or to appeal??

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Matt

      Your proposed course of action is correct. Submit a request for a review and then take to the Valuation Appeal Tribunal if you think you have been wrongly held liable.
      Normally, you can be liable until the contractual notice period you have to give you landlord expires and you move out, unless you move out sooner and someone else occupies the flat. Then they are liable. I am not sure if that is the issue.
      Basically, what has happened is the Council has accepted the landlords evidence over yours and you will be liable unless they change the decision on review or the Tribunal over turns the decision.

      1. Matt

        Thanks for your reply.

        I didn’t ask for review but I made formal complaint on the councils website, so I hope that amounts to the same thing?

        I also asked what the procedure is to apply to Valuation Appeal Tribunal.

        I am also wondering if I should pay the charge and then challenge it as I don’t want it to escalate the costs – the letter says they can freeze my bank account.

        1. Scottish Adviser

          Hi Matt

          A complaint is fine. Look at the Council’s website, they should outline the complaint procedure for complaints and the timeline they must respond within. Once they give you a final decision and if you are still not happy with it, you can take it to the VAT. The council should advise you how to do this. Also if they don’t respond within the timelines on their website you can take it directly to the VAT and ask them for the details to do so. Alternatively, you can complain to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman.
          Its up to you whether you pay it now. If you can it may be better as it avoid further sheriff officers fees and recovery action against you. If your ultimately successful, you should get these funds refunded.

  3. Tosatti

    Hi…I have received a summary warrant (Scott & Co – sheriff’s officers) several months after it was sent to my old address demanding council tax for the year 2021.

    However, I lived in a rental flat with three other people and I seem to be getting charged for the whole flat despite me never agreeing to be the one who would be responsible for the council tax issues.

    Furthermore I have genuine health issues (and can provide relevant documentation which departments of local government already possess) and I have not been able to work for over a year and I am on benefits (thus the aforementioned documentation).

    What am I supposed to do? I do not believe I should be responsible at all.

    Thanks/Tosatti

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Tosatti

      Speak with your local advice agency (See here for a list). Basically if you are sharing the flat with a number of adults, then normally you would all be joint and several liable for the council tax debt, but if the Council is not aware of who is living in the property, they will hold you solely liable.
      You may, therefore, have to inform them who else is living in the property. This should reduce your liability.
      In relation to what other help you are entitled to, your local advice agency should be able to advise you of this.

  4. Alan

    Does a summary warrant affect credit rating?

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Alan. Summary Warrants do not affect your credit rating, as local authorities do not share information with credit reference agencies. However, not paying your Council Tax may turn up if a creditor does and affordability check, using open banking. This could be a red flag for them and affordability checks, which are increasingly more common are about seeing how you manage your money and whether you are paying all your bills on time.

  5. Paul B

    I have a complicated issue arising from the Council refusing to communicate, but ultimately I paid my Council tax before a summary Warrant was issued and without even being aware that it had been escalated. (It was escalated whilst I was awaiting a reply from the Council and the way it was done made it impossible for me to pay as instructed before they escalated it, as the two letters were the same date!). Despite having paid the bill in full the Summarry warrant was still issued plus the 10% surcharge. Despite providing bank proof that the payment was made to Scottish Borders Council neither they nor Walker Love are accepting the fact and want me to pay again! I have a disabled and severely agoraphobic wife and was recently myself told that I have a brain tumour I cannot understand why the Council has engineered the matter in such a way except perhaps to “teach us a lesson” for complaining?

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Paul

      I am sorry to hear what has happened. Its unlikely to be personal, but more likely bureaucracy.

      I would recommend you make a formal complaint. The Council should respond with 8 weeks and give you a final decision. If you are still happy you can the take your complaint to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman.
      If you need help contact your local advice agency. See Here.

      1. Roxana

        I received a Summary Warrant even thou I only missed my council tax payment for a month. I tried to contact the council to tell them I cannot afford to pay for a month but I was on hold for 25 minutes.
        I phoned the number from the summary warrant and no answer again.
        I have all my receipts for the council tax payment.
        Do they have the right to send a summary warrant, charge me 10% extra even thou I missed one month payment?

        1. Scottish Adviser

          Hi Roxana
          Unfortunately they can send you a 14 day letter if you miss a payment. This give you 7 days to make that payment. If you don’t they can then send a 14 day letter demanding the full payment. If you still don’t make the payment they can issue a summary warrant, apply 10% and send you case to Sheriff Officers for enforcement. Ideally you want to set up a repayment plan with them, to avoid further action and fees being applied, and possible bank and wage arrestments. If you are struggling to contact them, I would contact your local advice agency for free advice.

    2. Tammy

      I really hope that you’re okay now

      I’m going through this too atm…

  6. Steven

    Hi, I have just had Sheriff Officers turn up with a Charge for Payment. This goes back to a debt owed for business rates from June 2019 to May 2020. Whilst at the time rates should have been payable we had an rates appeal against them and received no documentation regarding owning any which we thought was due to the appeal.
    In November 2019 they had a summary warrant issued for the rates owed. They added a 10% surcharge to the debt. They then removed the original debt because our appeal was successful and said we did not owe anything. However the Sheriff Officers turned up chasing the surcharge.
    Upon discussions with the council and the office where the Sheriff Officers were sent from, it transpires that every document they sent from initial bills for rates through to all court documents were sent to our old head office address. This was an old private address of a company director that the company had not used and had changed with Companies House over 18 months prior to the matter going to court.
    The council say it was our responsibility to notify them of our new address despite us using our new address with them from April 2018 to current. Effectively it boils down to us not saying ‘Please update our details’ and the council are insisting on payment. I have sent letters of appeal to the council who have said they have done things correctly. Is there someone else that I can appeal to? The court themselves have said it is pretty much impossible to appeal a Summary Warrant.

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Steven

      The Short answer is yes. If you feel the Council has done something wrong you should make a complaint and provide them with evidence.

      You then need to give them time to deal with the complaint (look at their complaints procedure online). If you are still not happy after that point you can appeal the decision to the Valuation Appeals Tribunal. Alternatively, you can make a complaint to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman.

  7. Kevin

    Hi, I have a quick question.
    I have received a Walker Love letter demanding £15.90 to be paid within seven days (council tax). I have no outstanding debt with my council for this financial year. It is apparently a 10% fee that was put on after a late payment from the final monthly payment on last year’s council tax (things were a bit crazy for us around April/May) I was notified very recently about the missed payment and paid it straight away but didn’t notice anything about an extra 10% late fee.
    I was wondering whether it is right to receive a summary warrant from them (Walker Love) for monies that aren’t actually my council tax and can they add on their own fee onto that small late fee?
    Thanks

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Kevin

      The 10% surcharge that councils can apply is legally recoverable under the Summary Warrant that is issued, so can be sent to the Sheriff Officers to recover, as ridiculous as that is.

      However, before the summary warrant is issued the Council should have sent you a 7 day letter followed by a 14 day letter. You may want to see if you can speak to them about paying it and avoiding further fees, as Sheriff Officer fees will soon dwarf the debt itself.

  8. CJ

    I had 2 sheriffs appear at my door last year, without prior notice, I spoke to the council and they agreed that I was not in arrears with any payments and it was a mistake. I have now received a letter from the Sheriffs, saying that i owe them for their visit. I spoke to them and they confirmed the council withdrew the debt but said I am liable for Sheriff fees. Just spoke to them, they said it was because they couldnt find me. Despite the fact I had phoned them twice before the sheriffs arrived, once to set up my new council tax at my new property and a 2nd after receiving a letter to confirm who lived at my new property, where i gave them my lat known address for paying council tax.

    This is the most ridiculous situation, ‘we were wrong, but we are making you pay them for it’ – not cheap either. what should I do?

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi CJ

      Make a complaint to the Council formally. If you were not in arrears they must have wrongly issued a Summary Warrant against you.
      They would have required that to instruct the Sheriff officers.
      They should either agree with their Sheriff Officers the fees should be waived or pay them themselves.
      I also don’t understand how they couldn’t find you, they have your address, the property you are liable for.
      If they don’t resolve your complaint satisfactorily, ask it be escalated to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman.

      1. CJ

        Thanks for the advice.
        I have emailed them, after I spoke to them on the phone as they said they would escalate it to a supervisor to review. They gave me a little more information and said I was actually in arrears for a payment between the 6th and the 20th of June (the month I moved out) but they said ‘they made an exception and waived that amount’. In my email, I told them that there was no effort made to contact me, prior to the warrant. I assume I wont hear anything back until midweek, but knowing this council (they are notorious), I may have a fight on my hands.

        thanks again

        1. Scottish Adviser

          No problem.

          I hope they sort it out. It doesn’t sound like the length of time you were in arrears should have led to a Summary Warrant and the Sheriff Officers being involved as they normally give you a 14 day demand followed by a second 7 day demand.

          However, if they have waived it, it shouldn’t matter.

          1. CJ

            yeah, its all a bit nuts. It also occurred to me, when the waived the council tax fee , last year, they never told me i would be liable for the sheriff fees, or i would have raised the issue last year. So its almost as if they realised after that point, that someone still has to pay them. I should get a reply today or tomorrow. im hoping they agree that charging me is ridiculous. Its hard to find the time to chase these things when you work full time.

  9. sundaram

    Hi, I was issued a summary warrant for council tax arrears more than 4 years back. To be fair, I also did not receive the initial 2 reminders and tried to push back a lot, but with not much success. I finally settled to avoid attachment etc, but I was wondering if I can get a copy of the warrant for my records..where can I find that as I don’t have a copy.

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Sundaram

      The best thing to do is just write to the Local Authority and ask they provide you with a copy.

  10. M Duncan

    Hi

    Despite advising creditors of current address summary warrants have been granted at previous address, are they valid as no bills/demands for payment were received at current address?

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi

      They will be valid, as they sent letters to your previous known address.

      However, if you are no longer living at that address you may not be liable. If you can provide them with proof your living at new address and paying, liable for Council Tax there, they should removed or reduce your liability for the period since you have moved out.

      You will remain liable for the period that you lived at that address.

      1. Marianne

        Thanks. They have refused to remove my liability despite being provided with proof of current council tax within different LA. Further more they contacted new LA suggesting I was committing fraud. The new LA conducted fraud investigation and found that I was not. The new LA informed old LA of their findings yet old LA still refuse to remove me.

        1. Scottish Adviser

          Hi Marianne

          I am sorry to hear this.

          Thankfully, your current Council have supported you in not finding fraud.

          I would recommend making a written complaint to the Council that is saying your liable.

          Give them the dates you moved and state you have provided proof of your new address and also that you are now paying Council Tax elsewhere.

          Ask them to confirm receipt of the complaint and to outline their timeline for responding to it. Also ask for information about taking it further to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman if they dont resolve it to your satisfaction and also how to appeal it to the Scottish Valuation Appeals Tribunal, as both options are open to you.
          Keep an eye of the deadlines for escalating to the Ombudsman or making an appeal to the Tribunal.
          I hope this helps. Please let me know how you get on and if you have time, it would be great if you could give us a Rating on Trust Pilot.

  11. Jav

    I wonder if you can help. The landlord at my previous place of work has told the council that I was the tenant at a commercial unit. I wasn’t I was simply the named key-holder. The council is now seeking the business rates from me personally, and has taken out a summary warrant and is insistent that it won’t get involved in a dispute between tenant and landlord. This despite the commercial lease naming a limited company as tenant. How do I appeal this?

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi
      You can appeal it to the Valuation Appeal Committee.
      First complain to the Council that you are not liable and you want to appeal their decision, if they don’t uphold your complaint.
      Were you being paid by your previous employer? Do you have wage slips to show you were an employee?
      It is not for you to show you were not liable for the non-domestic rates, it was for the Council to show you are liable.
      The owner of the property is liable, and if not him the leaseholder.
      If it was a limited company it is the limited company that is liable.
      What evidence have they that you were personally liable? The owners word?
      That can be rebutted by you.

  12. Harri

    Possibly dumb question, but how can the warrant be granted without giving the defendant a chance to defend themselves? I was under the impression that the right to representation was valid in all court proceedings.

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Harri

      Thanks. It is not a dumb question at all and what you are saying is generally correct.

      However, if you don’t believe you are liable for a Council Tax debt, how you appeal depends on why you think you are not liable.

      If it is because you believe you were entitled to Council Tax Reduction, you should apply for Council Tax Reduction. If you are refused or you disagree with how much they say you are entitled to you appeal that decision.

      If it is because you think you were entitled to a Council Tax Exemption, or Discount you should apply for that exemption or discount. If it is refused you should make a written compliant to the Council and explain why you don’t agree with the decision. If you are not happy with the outcome of that complaint, you appeal the decision to the Valuation Tribunal.

      So although you don’t get a chance to defend the Summary Warrant, there are other ways to defend a Council Tax debt.

      This is the justification for why there is not a court hearing when the Summary Warrant is applied for.

      1. Harri

        In my case, my issue is that I received no communication from my council before the summary warrant, and was therefore unable to pay my bill. Despite this, their appeals process is proving difficult – despite council officials admitting that I was unable to pay.

        Also, while the warrant is currently on hold, that is a temporary state of affairs, and so I am the one facing a deadline despite the fact that the council is the party who needs to re-examine it’s case. I feel like if this had been conducted in the usual way, either the council would have been unable to provide a reasonable argument in their favour, or I would have been able to state my case in a very clear manner, and the outcome would be based on justice, not council procedure.

        In short, had the warrant been held to the same standards of evidence of any other court proceedings, I find it hard it difficult to believe it would have been granted, and if that’s the case, the process feels like an overreach of power with a lack of accountability.

        1. Scottish Adviser

          Hi Harri

          I take your point.

          The problem is the Summary Warrant procedure is a legal one and enacted under UK Government Legislation and now falls under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Parliament.

          From the Council’s point of view that same legislation forced them to do what they are doing.

          However, by placing the Warrant on hold whilst they investigate your complaint is the correct course of action for them to take.

          Even if they don’t respond to your complaint within two months, you don’t have to wait till they do. You can then go directly to the Valuation Tribunal to appeal their decision on your liability, or if you want to complain about wider issues, you can ask the Scottish Public service Ombudsman to investigate.

          From my understanding, if you go to the Valuation Tribunal, a date will be set and the hearing will be heard by a Tribunal judge.

          1. Harri

            I appreciate the practical advice, and I’ll certainly look into this options.

            On a more theoretical level though – legal or not, does the granting of a summary warrant without a need for a case not violate both the principal of innocent until proven guilty and the right to a defence? I would think both of those are parts of the fundamental right to a fair trial, and surely such a fundamental right cannot be waived by mere legislation?

            1. Scottish Adviser

              Possibly, but until someone challenges it in the Inner House Of the Court of Session, it is the law.
              However, it could be argued it is a civil matter so it not about guilt and the legal obligation is to be given the right to a fair hearing, which you have if you want to appeal it to the Valuation Tribunal.
              So like all legal points, Judges may not always take the point of view you think they will, as on the other hand this is about the effective administration of justice and collection of taxes and if every case had to appear in front of a Sheriff and everyone had a chance to defend it, the Courts could grind to a halt.
              I personally think it would be held to be legal and if anyone wanted to object, they would be told they can appeal.

              1. Abc123

                An Italian took the Italian government as far as the European Supreme Court arguing that their version of a summary warrant was a breach of Article Six of Human Rights. It was held that they were legal for the collection of taxes.

  13. Mark

    Thank you.

    In my case a summary warrant was issued despite not receiving any correspondence from the council advising that a debt was due.

    I immediately challenged this in writing, asking for a breakdown of said debt and copied in WalkerLove (in essence appealing the warrant on this basis).

    I heard nothing back from the council for 4 weeks… Before receiving their response, I received a charge for payment from WalkerLove (despite appealing within 14 days of receipt of warrant).

    I actually agreed with the council’s explanation of the makeup of the outstanding debt and duly made an immediate payment to them.

    However, WalkerLove are continuing to chase me for their fees, which I believe is grossly unfair as the warrant and payment charge were challenged and ultimately issued unnecessarily.

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Mark

      If you don’t believe the Council followed the correct procedure you should complain.

      Ultimately, you can take your complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

      You should have received a Council Tax Bill just before the beginning of the new financial year, or when you moved in, if that was later.

      When a payment that was due was missed, you should have received a 7 day letter telling you to make the Payment.

      If the Payment was not received, they should have sent you a 14 day demand for Payment for the full amount.

      If you failed to make the full payment, they would then have applied for and issued the Summary Warrant applying a 10% surcharge.

      After that the debt would have went to Walker Love for recovery, who can issue a Charge for Payment. Their fees are then added to the debt.

      If your position is the Local Authority didn’t take some of these steps, then your course of action is to complain.

      If they don’t uphold your complaint, the Summary Warrant, the surcharge and the Charge for Payment (and the cost of executing it) stand.

      You can complain to the Ombudsman, see above, but until he upholds your complaint, the Council and the Sheriff Officers will continue to recover the debt.

      This could include taking further Diligence, like executing a wage arrestment or bank arrestment.

  14. Mark

    Hi, as summary warrants are granted without a court hearing, what is the mechanism for appealing them if you feel that the local authority has acted improperly/unfairly? Should a formal complaint be raised with them directly? Thank you.

    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Mark

      It depends really why you want to appeal.

      If you want to appeal as you think the Bill should be reduced because you were entitled to Council Tax Reduction, then you appeal against the decision not to award Council Tax Reduction.

      You should do this by first requesting the Council review their decision.

      If you are still not happy, you can appeal the decision to the Council Tax Reduction Review Panel.

      If you want to appeal as you don’t think you are the liable person, or because you believe a discount or an exemption should have applied, or you think your property is in the wrong band, you should complain to the Council first.

      They should write back to you within two months. If they don’t write back to you, or your don’t agree with their response, you can appeal to the valuation Appeals Tribunal.

      Either way if you want to appeal, you must do so within 4 months of writing your complaint to the Council.

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