Home is where the heart aches

OVERWHELMED: Christine Anderson going through the paper work in relation to her overdue council rates.
OVERWHELMED: Christine Anderson going through the paper work in relation to her overdue council rates.

INVALID pensioner Christine Anderson's nightmare battle with the Lismore City Council is not over.

Ms Anderson's home of more than 20 years was sold by the council in May last year to satisfy an unpaid rates bill of $16,000, including interest.

But on August 12 the Supreme Court ruled the auction of Ms Anderson's South Lismore house was unlawful and the council should pay one third of her costs.

While Ms Anderson won the right to remain in her house, she said it no longer felt like her home.

"It's been hanging over my head for 18 months and I still feel like I'm in limbo," Ms Anderson said.

"I want to feel like this is still my place, but I keep feeling they could take it away."

A rates bill of $11,700 remains outstanding, including interest totalling $5084.

Ms Anderson said she had seen a financial counsellor and was paying off $100 a fortnight, but her clinical depression and physical disabilities made it hard to pay more.

She had asked the council to write-off the interest accrued, but said the issue keeps "dragging on".

"I want a payment plan and a decision on whether they will write off the interest. I want to feel like this is still my place," Ms Anderson said.

"I know I owe them money, but the interest is astronomical and I just don't know how to pay it."

The council's finance manager Rino Santin said he could not comment on specific ratepayers. However he said the court decision in her favour had "absolutely" led to the development of a draft policy regarding the sale of land for unpaid rates and charges.

"I suppose there were unintended consequences of the council's policy at the time," Mr Santin said.

The new policy, along with a review of the council's Rates and Charges Hardship Policy, has been set down for discussion at council's ordinary meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Santin said the revised policy would detail how interest charges could be waived "in special cases".

"The policy council is preparing will

clarify it and make it clear to ratepayers what process council will follow," he said.

Ms Anderson said she hoped the draft policies led to more flexibility for ratepayers facing financial hardship.

"I hope it helps other people. But it's all because they sold my house and it was an illegal thing to do," she said.



Topics:  christine anderson lismore city council unpaid rates

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