Christine Anderson with some of the documentation related to the auction of her home after payment of her land rates had lapsed.
Christine Anderson with some of the documentation related to the auction of her home after payment of her land rates had lapsed.

Pensioner not giving in to council

CHRISTINE Anderson has already lost her house to the Lismore City Council, but she's not giving up yet.

Ms Anderson, aided by family friend David Slatter, yesterday began trying to recruit a lawyer to take on the council after it sold her home of more than 20 years over more than $16,000 in unpaid rates.

The sale came despite a council policy aimed at protecting pensioners such as Ms Anderson from the forced sale of their homes. The council waived the policy in a report to councillors in October last year.

It also came despite Ms Anderson having started a payment plan and offering a $5000 lump sum payment from her superannuation. The existence of a payment plan would also normally block the council from selling her home.

However, Lismore council general manager Paul O'Sullivan said the council never managed to get a payment plan in place with Ms Anderson, despite sending her six letters between August last year and April.

He had said previously the council was sceptical about the promise of super funds after earlier promises to clear outstanding rates with super failed to materialise.

Mr Slatter said the plan – $55 per fortnight plus the lump sum – was based on an offer made by the council to Ms Anderson last August.

Mr Slatter said he and his wife spoke to the council's debt collection officer after he began championing Ms Anderson's case in April, saying she could manage the $55 per week.

He said the officer said the council would accept the plan and Ms And-erson would need to provide medical certificates and other documentsdetailing her situation.

However, Mr O'Sullivan had a different view of that conversation, saying staff “explained what wasrequired to reach an agreed repayment plan” each time they spoke to Mr Slatter.

“Unfortunately, and despite our best efforts and intentions, we were unable to obtain any firm financial commitment to warrant withdrawal from the sale,” Mr O'Sullivan said.

Mr Slatter stands by his recollection of the conversation and said it was backed by numerous repeat conversations discussing details of Ms Anderson's progress in getting medical documents and accessing her super. At no time did the council officers he was talking to suggest he was on the wrong path.

Deciding whether Ms Anderson was on a payment plan and whether the council correctly waived its policy of not taking pensioners' homes may now be up to lawyers.

Mr Slatter and Ms Anderson yesterday began seeking legal advice through the Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre. Mr Slatter said Ms Anderson needed a barrister prepared to represent her without charge.



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