Problems paying your bills and council rates
Help is out there
Electricity, gas, water, phone bills and your rates can be
difficult to pay if you don't have spare money in the bank. Here
are the steps you can take if you are struggling to pay your
Contact your provider
Talk to your provider about your bills rather than putting
them on your credit card and running up a big debt.
If you're having trouble paying a utility or rates bill the
first thing you should do is contact your provider. Most
utility providers and councils have hardship officers who can
help you work out a plan to pay the bill in instalments.
If your utility provider is not helpful, you
can make a
complaint to one of the state-based utility
When it comes to your rates, most councils will ask you to put
your request for hardship in writing. Depending on your
circumstances, your 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 don't pay your council rates on time, or don't
contact the council to discuss other options, the council is
entitled to charge you a penalty which is usually interest on the
amount that you owe.
Apply for a utility bill
rebate or voucher
Rebates and vouchers can help you pay your utility bills. This
list shows you what vouchers are available and where to go to apply
Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
See a financial
Financial counsellors offer a free, confidential service to help
you sort out your money problems. They may help you approach your
utility provider or council to work out a payment plan or apply for
vouchers. Find out more about financial counsellors and what
If you're in a crisis and need emergency relief or emotional
support see our urgent money
Smooth out your bills
Companies such as AGL offer 'bill smoothing' where you can make
fortnightly or monthly payments towards your future utility bill so
it is not so painful when the big bill comes. Ask your provider if
they offer this service and how it is set up.
Centrepay is a voluntary bill-paying service which is free for
Centrelink customers. Use Centrepay to arrange regular deductions
from your Centrelink payment for ongoing expenses like rent,
childcare, electricity and water as well as other household costs.
To find out more see Department of
Human Services' Centrepay.
Find out more about smoothing your bills.
Make a complaint
If your utility provider won't help you, you can complain to one
of the ombudsman schemes below.
Energy and Water Ombudsman Services in each state provide advice
and conciliation services for consumers with complaints about
energy or water providers.
Industry Ombudsman (1800 062 058) is a free, national
independent dispute resolution scheme for complaints about phone or
Reduce your utility usage
If your utility bills are bigger than they should be perhaps you
can look at ways to reduce your usage. See our simple ways to save on your power and water
Take action before your bills pile up and
remember that it is in your provider's interest to help you with
any bill problems.
Last updated: 12 Feb 2019