Problems paying your rates
Ask for help if you need
If you are going through a tough time financially, it can be
tempting to prioritise paying your mortgage and other bills over
your council rates. But there can be serious consequences if you
don't pay your rates on time. Here we explain what to do if you are
struggling to pay your rates.
If you are having problems paying your rates on time, contact
your council straight away to discuss your situation. Most councils
have a hardship policy to help ratepayers who are experiencing
Depending on your circumstances, the council might:
- allow you to pay your rates by instalments
- write off any interest charges on overdue rates
- defer part or all of your rates and charges for a certain
period of time
- waive, reduce or defer your rates if a land revaluation caused
them to increase, and this has caused you substantial
If you are a concession card holder, you may be eligible
to receive a rebate or discount on your council rates. Contact your
local council for details.
Most councils will ask you to put your request for hardship in
When considering your request, the council will look at:
- the amount you owe
- how long the amount has been unpaid
- your personal circumstances
- your payment history as a ratepayer.
Case study: Franco and Joy seek hardship assistance
Franco and Joy bought their home 9
years ago and always paid their council rates on time. But when
Franco was suddenly made redundant, they struggled to pay their
bills on time with only one income. When their quarterly rates
notice came in, they ignored it because they didn't have the money
to pay it.
When the rates became overdue, penalty interest started
accruing on the amount they owed, and the council sent a notice
advising of their recovery action if the overdue amount was not
paid. Franco and Joy called their local council to discuss their
options, and were asked to lodge a request for financial
They wrote to the council to explain their situation, and
requested permission to pay their rates in small, regular
instalments for a few months until Franco found work.
The council agreed to these repayments, on the condition
that Franco and Joy paid their instalments on time for the agreed
Why you need to pay your rates
If you do not pay your council rates on time, the council is
entitled to charge you a penalty which is usually interest on the
amount that you owe.
Make sure your local council has your current postal address
details. This will ensure you always receive your rates on
If you don't pay your overdue rates, or don't contact the
counciil to discuss other options, they can start legal action
against you. If this happens, the court filing fee and other costs
will be added to the amount you already owe, which will make it
even more difficult to get back on track.
If you get a notice advising that the council is filing in
court, seek legal advice immediately. Free legal
advice is available in each state and territory.
Can the council sell your property
if you don't pay your rates?
As a last resort, councils have the right to sell your property
to recover unpaid rates, fines and charges.
Restrictions apply, and the length of time the rates need to have
been overdue before this happens varies between states and
If you receive a notice from the council about this, get urgent
Get help from a
If you are having trouble paying your rates and keeping up with
your bills a financial counsellor may be able to help you.
Financial counselling is a free, confidential service to help
you sort out your money problems. A financial counsellor can explain
your options, help negotiate payment arrangements, or refer you to
other services that can help you.
Your council rates are just as important as your
mortgage payments. If you can't pay them by the due date, contact
your council early to discuss your options.
Last updated: 06 Oct 2017