Unpaid rates owing to the Timaru District Council have jumped by more than 20 per cent - and the council has seized a property to reclaim some of the debt.
Figures provided to the Herald reveal that at June 30, $2.096 million was owed in unpaid rates, or about 5 per cent of the total rate take. This was an increase of $488,000 on the previous year.
Council corporate services manager Tina Rogers said its rates bills went out in September, December, March and June, while a penalty of 10 per cent was added to each instalment or any portion not paid on or before the due date.
"There could be any number of reasons why people do not pay their rates in time. Some people might just be late in one payment and cover it the next time around," she said.
In a worst-case scenario, the council has the ability to seize a property through a court order, and a Browning St property in Winchester was advertised for sale on Trade Me on Wednesday after the council obtained a court order for unpaid rates. Tenders close on the 1283-square-metre property on December 5. Property database Terralink listed Pauline Church as the most recent owner.
The council did not disclose the amount owing on the property.
When the Herald visited yesterday, two people, who did not wish to be named, were on site, living in a caravan-bus.
They appeared unaware the property was about to be sold, and the site showed signs of neglect and overgrowth. Ms Rogers said another property was sold in 2009 after a court judgment was obtained for unpaid rates.
"We encourage ratepayers who are having difficulties making their rates payments to contact our customer services staff.
"Payment plans can then be put in place.
"Generally, paying rates [and insurance premiums] are conditions within mortgage agreements, so any missed payments can be a default on the mortgage," Ms Rogers said.
"The banks are generally helpful in arranging for the loan to be increased to clear the rates debt."
Waimate District Council's rates officer Michelle Heal said its total arrears for the financial year ending in June was $57,311, or $25,881 up on the previous financial period, while Mackenzie District Council finance officer Paul Morris said there was $78,921 owing in unpaid rates, down on the previous year's $95,538.
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