If you’re experiencing financial difficulty and cannot pay your local council rates, you should inform your council. Some local councils have hardship programs and you can ask them to waive the interest on overdue rates.
Most councils will have a hardship policy, which informs their response and decision-making towards dealing with a financial difficulty request. You can check your council’s website to find out about its hardship policy before requesting assistance with your rates payment. The Municipal Association of Victoria has a list of all council websites in Victoria. Search your council’s website for a copy of its hardship policy or ring your council and ask for a copy of the policy to be mailed to you.
If you advise your council that you expect your circumstances to be short-term and are able to pay off some of the debt, the council will usually agree to an arrangement where you can pay later and still keep your home and assets.
Please be aware that failure to pay your rates may lead to councils starting legal proceedings against you to recover their rates payments, which will increase your costs. Therefore it’s preferable to act quickly and advise your local council, and keep them updated on your situation.
Payment options available from your council include:
- Claim your concession entitlement
- Negotiate a payment arrangement
- Apply for deferred payment
- Apply for waiver of part or all of your rates
Claim your concession entitlement
If you are receiving a Centrelink benefit check your concession entitlement has been applied to your council rates. Concessions are available to Centrelink Concession Card and Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold Card holders.
The minimum amount of the concession is set by the state government and indexed. Councils are reimbursed this amount by the government. Individual councils may decide to increase the concession amount in some instances.
Contact the council, provide them with your details about your concession entitlement and ask them to adjust your account if your entitlement has not been taken into account in the bill.
Find out more about concession entitlements in Victoria.
Negotiate a payment arrangement
You may be able to negotiate to pay any outstanding rates by instalments over an agreed period.
Make sure you only commit to a payment arrangement that is realistic in your current circumstances, and advise your council directly and promptly if your circumstances change again.
Keep in mind that you will be required to pay ongoing annual rates as well as the arrears.
Apply for deferred payment
You may be able to negotiate with your council to defer your rate payments for a specified period if you can demonstrate the payment will cause you severe financial difficulty. This option may be suitable if you expect your change of circumstances to be short-term.
Work out your income and expenses and obtain help to ascertain when you will be in a position to pay. Then contact the council by phone or visit the council offices to request a deferral of your rates for the period it will take to get your finances into a better position.
Remember that you will have to pay the deferred rates and should do so as soon as you can because high interest charges may apply to your arrears.
Your council will require you to pay rates they have deferred if:
- they believe your circumstances have changed, so payment will no longer cause you hardship; or
- you sell or are no longer living in the property.
Apply for waiver of part or all of your rates
If you are suffering financial hardship, or will suffer such hardship if you pay your rates, you have the right (under section 171A of the Local Government Act) to apply to the council for a waiver of all or part of your rates, interest or charges.
Be sure to check your council’s hardship policy before making a waiver application.
Although a council is not obliged to waive your rates even if you do make a waiver application under 171A, the council should:
- give genuine consideration to your application and any reasonable alternatives that will help you to overcome your financial hardship; and
- where it rejects your application, it should give reasons and ensure that those reasons reflect legitimate considerations and are referable to your particular circumstances.