Media response - Rates in arrears
Published on 05 July 2019
Enquiry and response
Comments attributed to Mayor Erin Thompson.
How many people have been taken to court in the past three years?
Approximately 2700, or an average of 225 accounts per quarter. With approximately 80,000 rateable properties in the City of Onkaparinga, this equates to just over 1 per cent of ratepayer over the course of each year.
If legal action is taken, are ratepayers issued with a summons to appear in court?
If yes, what happens if they do not respond? If not, how are ratepayers informed that the council is taking legal action against them?
If legal action is taken, a ratepayer will be served with a minor civil action (MCA) via the appropriate means of service as per the Magistrates Court’s rules.
The MCA provides the ratepayer with legal options.
If they don’t respond, council may seek judgement and then choose to enforce this judgement via the avenues available in the Magistrates Court including a summons to court.
What happens then, are they required to appear in court and what happens if they don't show up?
If a ratepayer is issued and served with a summons to appear in the Magistrates Court they are required to appear at the advised hearing.If they don’t appear at the summons hearing, the court instructs council what the next course of legal action will be. This is at the court’s discretion.
Can you please tell me the process the council undertakes generally to recover unpaid rates and at what point is someone taken to court?
How long are they given to negotiate with council and start making payments?
From the time the quarterly notice is issued we allow, on average, approximately 30 days for the quarterly amount to be paid. If the amount isn’t paid by the due date, we issue an overdue notice.
If rates are outstanding for more than 60 days after the due date, we issue a final notice advising the potential of legal action as per the Magistrates Court’s rules.
If the next quarter falls due when there are rates outstanding, another overdue notice is sent advising that the two quarters must be paid. We allow another 30 days after this for payment to be made.
If payment is not made or if the ratepayer has not contacted council to negotiate a payment arrangement, we’ll proceed with the minor civil action.
In addition to the letters council sends to ratepayers whose rates are overdue, the collection agency engaged will also attempt to contact the ratepayer.
Legal action is a last resort for us; we encourage ratepayers who are having difficulties in paying rates, to contact us to discuss the options available.