Activist faces forced house sale

04:30, Mar 13 2014

An enemy of Auckland Mayor Len Brown may lose her home after refusing to pay her rates.

Auckland Council wrote to activist Penny Bright this month to demand $29,000 to cover overdue rates, penalties and legal costs.

The council threatened to sell Bright's home if she did not pay the bill within 10 days.

Bright, an anti-corruption campaigner, has refused to pay rates since 2008 in protest against the lack of transparency in how the money is spent.

She has accused Auckland Council of targeting her because of her outspoken views.

"They're desperately trying to stomp on my head."


The Auckland Council posted the letter to Bright a day after she spoke of her rates protest on talkback radio.

Bright failed to gain sympathy when she posted her plight onto social media page Facebook.

One man commented there were other ways to protest, rather than making other ratepayers pick up her bill.

The Auckland Council spokesman said rates were critical to the financial stability of local government.

"It is unfair for the regularly paying ratepayers to subsidise non-paying ratepayers."

The council would sell a home only as a last resort, he said.

"More often than not, rating sales are averted because the ratepayer complies with paying the rates."

Auckland Council was unable to provide details by deadline on the number of houses sold due to missed rates.

However, there had been few instances of a property needing to be sold to cover overdue rates, the spokesman said.

Councils could also seek the overdue payments through a homeowner's mortgage payments.

This was not possible in Bright's case because she did not have a mortgage.

Bright said she planned to stay strong on her protest, despite the risk of losing her home.

"If they're not going to say where exactly my money is going I'm not going to pay my rates.

Bright unsuccessfully contested the mayoralty against Brown at last year's election.

She also laid a complaint at Auckland Central police station in February alleging Brown concealed "freebies" from hotels across the city.



What happens when a homeowner refuses to pay rates?

The Government grants local authorities the power to assess, levy, and collect rates.

Council authorities can take a homeowner to court if a person repeatedly refuses to pay outstanding rates.

A house sale is used only when, despite having gone through the legal process, a ratepayer still fails or refuses to pay the outstanding rates.

The court - not the local authority - conducts the house sale.

When a property is sold, the proceeds of the sale are used to pay the outstanding rates on the property plus legal costs and court fees.

Any balance is returned to the ratepayer.

If a ratepayer is experiencing financial hardship they are encouraged to contact the council to discuss their situation.