This is how to make your council rates affordable

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Across Australia, capital and regional cities have experienced spectacular increases in home values over the past few years. While municipal councils attempt to adjust their rates so that such spikes are not a huge burden on ratepayers, the fact remains that most of us are paying a great deal more to our local government representatives than we did 10 or 20 years ago.

For many retirees, the extra burden of higher council rates can be stressful. But there are ways to lessen the pain.

Not all municipalities are equal. Some are more sensitive to their ratepayers’ plights than others.

If you are struggling to pay your rates, there are some propositions you can put to your council.

However, it is crucial that you reach out to your municipality as soon as you begin to struggle with paying your rates. Because if you don’t, unpaid rates remain a debt on your property, regardless of any change of ownership. If rates or charges remain overdue for more than three years without an arrangement made to pay the amount owing, the council may obtain a court order enabling it to sell or assume ownership of the land to recover the debt.

Depending on which municipality you live in, your council may be able to help you with paying rates by:

  • choosing to defer or waive all or part of unpaid rates in cases of genuine financial hardship
  • allowing you to apply for a waiver or deferral if you are likely to suffer hardship through paying your rates. Consult your council in advance of making an application to find out about their policy
  • waiving part of your rates if you are a concession cardholder. The minimum amount of the waiver is set by your state government and indexed. However, individual councils may decide to increase the amount waived in some instances.

If you think your property has been valued too high by your council, you can object to the valuation.

However, the best way of managing your council rates may be to set up a payment plan. If you cannot afford to pay the total amount or even the instalments, contact your municipality and suggest what you can afford to pay each month. Some councils will accept as little as $50 a month.

Of course, this small amount will not cover what you are expected to pay. So your total obligation will increase, year on year. When your house is sold, your council will be able to recover any rates still due. But if it helps you save some costs today so that you can make the most of what little income you receive, it may be worth it.

Not all councils are equal. In some states/territories you can compare different municipalities to work out if you are getting value for the council rates you are paying. Check these out:

The Australian Capital Territory has no municipalities.

Do you think your council is overcharging you for the services you receive? Would you be happy to go on a payment plan to reduce what you pay for your rates today and allow the council to claim amounts owing when your property is sold?


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Written by Olga Galacho


Total Comments: 13
  1. 0

    When coming home from shopping, the pub or the club throw your gold coins into a jar and when the rate bill arrives after 3 months you would be surprised how much is in your jar. It works for a few of us.

  2. 0

    What utter rubbish.

    Councils set their rate in the dollar to cover what they have budgeted to spend. The actual valuation of properties has very little to do with your rate bill.

    My rates have been going up at almost 2.5 times the rate of inflation. On my previous property of similar value, they went from $123 PA to $680 PA over 5 years, & have from $640 PA to $3670 PA over 22 years here.

    The only reason for this is empire building, & a rip off by that mongrel Peter Beattie. Staff numbers went up by almost 300%, requiring not only a huge wages bill, but an expensive new building to house all the bludgers.

    Of course Beattie gobbling up the water supply & all its profits did not help.Most councils made very nice profits on water supply, but now that has to be added to general rates to pay the wages bill.

    Meanwhile services have been reduced out of town, to pay for fool park beautification projects in parks no one ever uses.

    Hey Cowboy, you must be doing pretty well, not only if you can afford to go to the pub & club all the time, but actually come home with gold coins in your pocket. What’s your secret?

    • 0

      Yes, Hasbeen, not bad here. We downsized from Brissie a long time before pension age and live in a small unit. There are lower rates, body corp manageable as there are no lifts and pool. Brissie City Council milked us dry – too much money spent on festivals, sponsorship of all kinds of things immaterial to us. They should stick to rates, roads and rubbish and leave politics out of it.

    • 0

      Agree with you Hasbeen. Even with Aged Pension discount, the rates charges are a joke in Qld.

  3. 0

    Qld rates are an absolute joke! When I moved to Qld, and bought my house here, I actually went to the local council to say there had been an error in my rates. But as she laughed, and said – No – it was correct – I nearly feinted! My annual rates in Melbourne, house 11.5kms from city, were the QUARTERLY rates for my Brisbane home, 35 kms from city, and a smaller house on a smaller block. I cannot reconcile the charges here – they are obscene. 47% of my local council’s income goes on wages.

  4. 0

    Councils waste money on fat cat salaries and unproductive work-force
    That’s where 90% of your rates go – to pay the bludgers

  5. 0

    Councils are shockingly inefficient and wasteful and just keep jacking rates up. Legislation to limit rises is a joke because the council just claims special circumstances and gets approval every time.
    Objecting to a valuation is a hideously complicated and ridiculously difficult task – no matter how genuine the objection. Valuations are often thoroughly absurd and bear no relationship whatever to actual value. I know of a case where the driveway to a battleaxe block was counted as valuable yard space that increased the asset value considerably, even though in reality it was a liability. We once had a lot that council valuers declared worth $380,000 despite council having made a planning error that blocked access to the driveway and left it impossible to get onto the lot!
    As for saving gold coins – we don’t go to clubs or pubs and if we did we’d spend the gold coins on the one or two drinks we limit ourselves to. In any case, even a monthly visit would result in no more than $100 dollars or so – not much use for a rate bill of $3000+++!
    (And no, we don’t live in Queensland. Other states are just as bad.)

  6. 0

    Just received my new Council Rates….10+% higher than last yr, a farce. My 50yo home continues to need heaps of repairs on it’s 25% gradient slope + front/back gardens I’m struggling to upkeep & 25++yo appliances. Sad local Councils’ are far from what they used to be 30+yrs ago re offering free help when absolutely necessary – no so now, got a letter from my Council stating that I’d be fined $2,000-00 if don’t trim back my embankmenst to footpath level within 21 days….obviously did as there was only one super-spesh/ beautiful & “non-threatinging”one just a bit overlapping. Yikes!!??



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