PROPERTY owners in the Byron Shire who have unpaid rates dating back more than five years have been put on notice that the council is planning to sell their properties.
Fifteen properties have been identified and could go under the auctioneer's hammer on July 18 if the registered owners do not enter into an agreement with council to pay before that date.
An advertisement was recently placed in Saturday's Weekend Star advising of Byron Shire Council's intention to proceed with the sale of land in order to recover the unpaid rates.
The council's director of corporate and community services, Mark Arnold, said all of landowners have had numerous requests to pay the outstanding rates and charges.
He said the majority of the properties for sale were small parcels of land without dwelling entitlements.
UNPAID RATES ACROSS THE NORTHERN RIVERS
- Lismore City Council - Owed $4.468 million or 10.06% of total rates.
- Kyogle Council - Owed $872,000 or 9%
- Richmond Valley Council - Owed $1.203 million or 6.12%
- Ballina Shire Council - Owed $2.316 million or 5.63%
- Byron Shire Council - Owed $1.528 million or 4.48%
* As of February 2015
"It is unfortunate that council has to take this path, however it would be unfair on ratepayers who pay their rates in full and on time," Mr Arnold said.
The highest amount outstanding is $29,347 for a property in Shara Boulevard, Ocean Shores, with the majority owing about $7000.
As at the end of March 2015, the council had a total of $1.2 million in outstanding rates and charges.
Failing that, an auction would be conducted at council's administrative centre in Mullumbimby on Saturday, July 18, at 11am.
Mr Arnold reminded property owners to contact the council if they were falling behind in paying rates.
"We can work out an agreeable payment plan or in some cases they can apply for a hardship rate relief," Mr Arnold said.
"Plus, rates can also be paid on a fortnightly or monthly basis via direct debit, rather than waiting until the quarterly bill."
Auctioning off homes a council's last resort
ALL councils have a similar policy in terms of debt recovery for unpaid rates.
They are bound by the NSW Local Government Act ,1993 (Section 713) which gives councils the power to sell land in cases where rates have not been paid for more than five years.
They may sell vacant land after one year if the amount of unpaid rates exceeds the Valuer-General's land valuation.
Kyogle Council has a debt recovery and hardship policy which allows it to offer a range of assistance measures including writing off debts of less than $2000 where recovery is judged not to be possible, or writing off accrued interest.
All councils have provisions for residents to make periodic payments. Lismore and Richmond Valley councils both have a requirement that a detailed report be provided to the council before any action is taken to sell land to recover debts. The reports must include a detailed history of the case and any application for hardship etc.
All councils say property auctions are a last resort.