Gold Coast City Council seeks to sell 180 homes as last resort to reduce $73.5 million rates arrears bill

Gold Coast property owners - who are  in some cases years behind on their rates payments - face the prospect of losing their homes unless they enter into a payment plan with the Gold Coast City Council.

The Gold Coast City Council is owed around $73 million in unpaid rates and water bills in 23,950 overdue accounts - around 10% of the 241,548 properties the council rates.

Council will seek approval to sell 180 properties to recover some of the lost revenue.

Five houses were sold by the council in 2012 for the recovery of rates, but none were sold in 2011,2010 or 2009, reports the Gold Coast Bulletin.

There were two properties sold by the council in November, 2007, seven properties sold in May, 2008 and five houses sold by the council in March last year.

In some instances, ratepayers are in arrears whilst owning their homes outright.

The amount owed to the council in unpaid rates and water bills increased following the GFC, but has recently been reducing as the market shows tentative signs of recovery.

The Gold Coast property market – particularly the high-rise apartment market – was one of the worst hit property markets following the financial crisis with sales stalling and values tumbling.

House prices have started recovering this year though units continue to struggle.

According to the latest Prodap Report, average Gold Coast house price rose from $515,941 to $554,263 (7.4%) in the March 2013 quarter, partially reversing an 8.4% fall over 2011 and 2012 combined.

In contrast the unit market fell by 3% in the March quarter, based on 895 settlements following falls of 11.3% of the past two years.

Prodap Report author Bill Morris expects the Gold Coast property market to start recovering from 2015 in line with a seven year recovery cycle.

Chairman of the council’s finance committee William Owen-Jones said the decision to sell the homes was the last resort after years of chasing ratepayers to make payments or enter into a payment arrangement with the council, if they are in financial distress.

He said the preference was always to enter into a negotiated arrangement for those struggling to make their payments rather than undertake a recovery action.

Should the council seek to recover rates through the sale of a property, a reserve price for each land parcel is set by chief executive Dale Dickson.

Property owners have until the morning of the auction to enter a payment plan or arrangement with the council.

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger was a property writer at Property Observer

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