In a "last resort" move, Wellington City Council is forcing auctions of city properties to recover unpaid rates.
It has got High Court orders to sell two properties in Newtown and Grenada Village where rates bills have been unpaid for almost a decade.
The house at 261 Adelaide Rd is boarded up - sheets of corrugated iron have been nailed over the windows and the front door is padlocked - while the property at Grenada Village is a vacant back section - a patch of lawn surrounded by blackberry scrub and a stand of old pine trees.
The owner of the Adelaide Rd property is named as Vivalie Sifahetoa Elesoni.
Neighbour Heidi Anderson said the house had been empty since she moved in five years ago.
At the time they were told the man who used to live there had died a year or two earlier.
The windows were boarded up and the doors were padlocked after squatters got in about three years ago.
Ms Anderson said they were worried the house was a fire risk, and that if it caught fire their property could also be threatened.
To help reduce the risk her fiance, Ed Louden, had gone over regularly to mow the lawns.
She understood the house had not been sold earlier because of problems sorting out the estate of the former resident.
The other property is a bare section at 2/52 Guadeloupe Cres, Grenada Village, registered in the name of Kuo Chan Huang.
These two properties are among 124 properties on which there are outstanding rates bills of more than $5000. The council said rating law meant it could not give further details on these cases.
However, rates bills can rise steeply - it levies a 10 per cent penalty for overdue rates and a further 10 per cent for each extra year they remain unpaid.
Council spokesman Richard MacLean said rating sales were extremely infrequent and "very much a last resort".
"The Newtown property had been the subject of dispute between the council and its owners for a few years. As no rates have been paid it has come to a situation where we had to take action."
He believed rates had been unpaid for about a decade.
"Neighbours have become increasingly frightened about squatters and the place being set on fire so we had to make a move on it."
The council had not been able to get in touch with the overseas owner of the Grenada Village property. The council mostly used other means to get rates paid.
If the property was mortgaged the council could ask the bank to pay and in cases where people could not afford to pay, arrangements were available to defer payment until the property was ultimately sold.
Porirua City Council revenue and risk manager Aneel Anthony said it had sold only one property in the last decade to recover rates arrears.
At present, 99 ratepayers owe arrears of about $60,000 in total, with the largest owing $5400. Sixteen properties owed between $1000 and $5000.
"Our standing policy on rates recovery is that every ratepayer should make arrangements to pay their rates by the due date. And if the ratepayers need help they should contact the council's rates team to help with setting up an arrangement for regular payments."
Napier District Council finance manager Ian Condon said its last rating sale was in 2008.
"We would exhaust all legal avenues such as debt collectors, orders and so on. If we weren't satisfied we'd start the rating sale process, which gives them a further six months to resolve the issue."
Upper Hutt City Council corporate services director Ian Johnson said the council had not had a rating sale in the last decade. "In the few instances we have got to this point, advising the intent to start the process usually effects payment."
Kapiti Coast District Council rates manager Brent Waterhouse said they had not used the rating sale process to recoup any overdue rates on Kapiti properties.
HOMES WAITING FOR SOMEONE TO LOVE THEM
RENOVATORS DREAM IN THE HEART OF NEWTOWN
Early 20th-century villa unlived in and unloved for at least a decade, apart from the lawns and back garden which have been tended by nice neighbours. Untidy 100-square-metre home on 399sqm section.
Pull the corrugated iron off the windows and brush on buckets of paint and 261 Adelaide Rd will be unrecognisable. Close to hospital and shops - you may need both.
RV $375,000 - land $275,000 and "improvements" $100,000 - but could go for a lot less at a council-forced rating sale.
Pick your own fruit on this quiet, sheltered back section at 52 Guadeloupe Cres. Sloping lawn edged with flourishing blackberry bushes and nestled under row of mature pines that screen off the bare hills across the gully. Shared access with friendly neighbours. Rare opportunity - owner bought it 15 years ago but it has been largely untouched since - even rates bills have been left unpaid. RV $117,000. To be auctioned by very committed seller - the council wants to get the money it's owed.
- The Dominion Post