Unpaid rates bill soars to $200m
Southeast Queensland councils are owed almost $200 million by rates-dodging residents, with unpaid bills surging in the wake of COVID-19 and some residents mounting legal battles over debts worth small fortunes.
An investigation by The Courier-Mail into unpaid rates across 10 southeast Queensland councils has revealed more than $190 million in outstanding rates, with some residents owing hundreds of thousands themselves.
More than a quarter of the total debt is owed by Gold Coast constituents, whose unpaid rates accounts equate to a staggering $63.374 million.
Another $36.4 million is owed to Logan City Council, where unpaid rates increased by more than $13.6 million compared to this time last year.
The Courier-Mail understands Brisbane City Council is currently embroiled in a legal battle with an Albion resident over an unpaid rates bill worth a staggering $364,580.69.
The River City saw the biggest rise in rates arrears, with debts skyrocketing by 75 per cent to almost $34 million - compared to $19.32 million last year.
Council's Finance, Administration and Small Business Chair Adam Allan said council had anticipated the increase overdue accounts in its budget this year, and that the surge was partly attributed to 4769 approved rates deferrals.
"Given the financially tough climate of 2020, to have just four per cent of rates unpaid, although not perfect, is a fantastic position to be in," he said.
"We anticipated an increase in overdue rate accounts, due to coronavirus, and to date the rate deferrals have been in line with these budgeted assumptions.
"Therefore, the impact from unpaid rates is not impacting our delivery of services and facilities for residents as we responsibly planned ahead for this."
Council Opposition leader Jared Cassidy said the spike in unpaid rates highlighted the need for increase coronavirus relief measures.
"Cut the wasteful spending and offer more rates relief to residents to help Brisbane get through this hardship," Mr Cassidy said.
Brisbane's five worst offending suburbs - Brisbane city, Kangaroo Point, Spring Hill, Clayfield and Albion - were responsible for more than a quarter of Brisbane's 20,671 unpaid rates bills.
The total amount of unpaid rates across the southeast rose by almost 20 per cent, to $190.05 million compared to around $158 million last year.
Of the 10 councils only the Gold Coast, Scenic Rim saw decreases in rates debts between 2019 and 2020.
Somerset Regional Council had no change in unpaid rates bills between 2019 and 2020, while a Toowoomba Regional Council spokesman said the council was "on track to achieve a similar, or improved result, compared to this time last year".
Sunshine Coast Council said rates and utility charges make up around 60 per cent of its revenue.
"Consequently, this income is a key funding source to support the delivery and maintenance of services and facilities our community requires," a spokesman said.
A Logan Council spokeswoman said the uptick in outstanding rates could not be entirely attributed to COVID-19 pandemic impacts.
All southeast Queensland Councils had released varying COVID-19 stimulus packages with rates freezes, interest pauses, rebates and flexible payment plans.
SEQ Councils Unpaid Rates Bills
Gold Coast $63.37 million
Logan $36.4 million
Brisbane $33.96 million
Toowoomba $16.4 million
Moreton Bay $11.42 million
Redlands $8.3 million
Ipswich $7.7 million
Sunshine Coast $5.9 million
Scenic Rim $4.4 million
Somerset $2.2 million
Originally published as Unpaid rates bill soars to $200m