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Investigation into how local councils respond to ratepayers in financial hardship

Council rates Financial stress Local government Victoria

In recent years, the Victorian Ombudsman has heard concerns from ratepayers, financial counsellors and community lawyers about the way local councils treat people who cannot afford their council rates. With the COVID-19 pandemic threatening to increase financial hardship in the community, the Ombudsman decided it was timely to investigate the issue. This investigation focused on council hardship relief for homeowners (ratepayers who cannot pay rates on their primary residence).

This investigation looked at how this could be achieved. It recommended changes including:

  • minimum standards for rates hardship relief across all councils
  • legal requirements for councils to publish hardship information, so ratepayers can find out about their rights and options
  • caps on councils’ ability to charge high penalty interest
  • better links between councils and other sectors, including financial counsellors and the private sector, to keep councils up to date with good practice.
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