An aerial photo of Lismore, looking south.
An aerial photo of Lismore, looking south. DAVID NIELSEN

Council tough on overdue rates

SEVENTEEN residents, including five pensioners, may have their homes sold from underneath them as the Lismore City Council attempts to recover almost $300,000 in unpaid rates.

Rates for the properties, including a business, a farm and two vacant properties, have been unpaid for more than five years – and in one case 12 years – despite the council asking the owners to make suitable arrangements.

“No one wants to see a property sold because of unpaid rates,” mayor Jenny Dowell said. “It’s not as if council hasn’t taken a lot of steps before taking this action, but often just beginning the process to sell them is enough to force the owners to come to some sort of arrangement.”

Councillors will be asked to vote on Tuesday night to start proceedings to recover the $283,721.

Lismore council charges the fourth-highest residential rates among 33 comparable regional councils across the State, according to a Department of Local Government report.

And with the Northern Rivers having one of the country’s lowest average wages, last year 11.9 per cent of the Lismore council’s homeowners either would not, or could not, pay their rates.

If councillors vote infavour of the drastic action, the properties will go under the auctioneer’s hammer next May.

Under the council’s exiting policy, no legal action is taken against pensioners, but the proposal to go to councillors suggests waiving this in this instance.

“Without going into the details there is other information that must be taken into account that explains why it is not clear cut,” Cr Dowell said.

The council’s business papers concede selling the properties would likely have a ‘tumultuous impact on affected ratepayers”’

However, the papersargue it has to be done as a last resort to protect other ratepayers.

“It could be argued that by letting outstanding rates increase to unmanageable levels, council is not meeting its obligation for all ratepayers,” the paper says.

“However, once the process has commenced, the ratepayers in question have the ability to avoid a sale by paying the outstanding sums.”



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