Council sues hundreds for rates

The City of Greater Bendigo has sued hundreds of residents over the last two years to recover almost $1.5 million in unpaid rates. 

There have been 853 cases of outstanding rates across the city since 2011, with an average debt of $1700. 

Rating and valuation services manager Neal Wrigley said the council was taking legal action to recover the funds. 

After four formal requests for payment, the City of Greater Bendigo issues a Magistrates Court Complaint which is used to recover unpaid rates. 

Mr Wrigley said the number of legal cases represented a small proportion of the region's ratepayers. 

"We have 55,600 ratepayers in Greater Bendigo and most pay their rates as required," he said. 

"The (people) who do not pay represent just 0.59 per cent of ratepayers here. 

"The figures ... are historical and represent the number of legal actions taken over two years combined from  2011-12 and 2012-13."

Mr Wrigley also confirmed that the council had resolved eight outstanding court matters of unpaid rates. 

Eight properties across the Bendigo region were expected be sold under the Local Government Act, after the owners failed to pay rates for three years. 

The properties in Bendigo, Heathcote, White Hills, Marong and Lockwood were earmarked for auction unless the rates were paid in full by May 20. 

Of these properties, five are now paid in full and the remaining owners have made satisfactory payment arrangements. 

The council said the decision to sell properties was not taken lightly.

"On every notice we issue, the city encourages ratepayers who may experience difficulty in paying rates to make a payment arrangement with us," Mr Wrigley said. 

"Four separate requests for payment are made prior to instigating any legal action. In most cases, we are able to work with the ratepayer to ensure payment is made."

The Magistrates' Court of Victoria has jurisdiction to deal with debt recovery claims and damages claims up to $100,000.

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