Council Rates

If you are having difficulty paying your council rates, you should talk to your local council as soon as possible  Most local councils have ‘hardship programs’ that offer assistance to ratepayers experiencing financial hardship and struggling to pay their rates.

Download PDF

This page provides information about assistance available and the steps you can take if you are struggling to pay your council rates.

If you are struggling to pay your rates, you have the right to ask your local council for hardship assistance.  You should talk to your local council as soon as possible to discuss your options and take steps to get back on track.

Council rates are an important bill to pay. If you don’t pay your rates, the council can take legal action to recover them.

If you complete the steps below and your problem still hasn’t been solved, or you are feeling overwhelmed, call us on 1800 007 007 to speak with one of our financial counsellors.

Steps to take if you’re struggling to pay your council rates


Work out what you can afford to pay

If you are struggling to pay your council rates, work out what you can actually afford to pay by doing a simple budget. See more information about How to work out what you can afford to pay.

If you can afford to pay something
Start paying the amount you can afford and get in touch with your local council straight away to put a repayment agreement in place.

If you can’t afford to pay anything
Call us on 1800 007 007 for advice from a free and confidential financial counsellor.


  • When working out how much you can afford to pay, keep in mind that you will still need to pay ongoing annual rates as well as any arrears.
  • Check for any rebates and concessions that you may be entitled to (See Step 02 below)
  • Check whether you can get a utility relief grant to help pay your utility bills and free up money for your council rates.
  • Find out if you can get food, transport, phone or chemist vouchers from an emergency relief service near you; this will also help free up money for your council rates. You can find your closest service on the Ask Izzy


Check for rebates and concessions

If you are receiving a Centrelink benefit, or of Age Pension age, check that you are getting the concessions and rebates you are entitled to.

The amount and type of concessions and rebates available is different in each state and territory.

Your council should have current information about what government concessions and rebates are available.   Or refer to your state or territory website below for more information and how to apply:

Australian Capital TerritoryRates assistance

New South WalesApply for council rates rebates

Northern TerritoryNT Concession Scheme

QueenslandRates subsidy

South AustraliaCost of living concession

TasmaniaCouncil rates remission

VictoriaRates concession

Western AustraliaLocal Government Rates Rebate


Understand your options

Most local councils have hardship policies that recognise some ratepayers will experience financial hardship and struggle to pay their rates.  These policies and the systems of hardship relief are not necessarily consistent and can vary from council to council.

Types of assistance that may be available from your local council include:

  • Flexible payment options to catch up with arrears and pay ongoing rate notices
  • Stopping debt recovery proceedings and credit default listings
  • Waiving late fees and interest charges on debt
  • Rates concession scheme for eligible ratepayers. For example, you may receive a 50% discount on rates if you hold a Pensioner Concession Card or a Veterans Gold Card, such as people with an age or a disability support pension.
  • Interest, rates or charges may be written-off, waived, reduced or deferred for eligible applicants. However, you will still need to pay the ongoing rates.

Depending on your circumstances, your local council may offer a combination of these and other options to help with your financial hardship.


If your financial hardship is not temporary and you will not be able to pay your council rates, your council may ask to put a caveat on your property.

A caveat is a listing on the title to your property indicating that the council has an interest in your land. You would not be able to sell your property without negotiating the removal of the caveat (by paying the council). Don’t agree to a caveat without getting legal advice.


Contact your local council

The sooner you contact your local council the better.

Ask to speak to the department that manages rates payments.  Talk to them about your situation and tell them you want to make an application for hardship assistance.  Explain what you can afford to pay and why.

  • Ask about what hardship assistance they can offer you. You can also find your councils’ hardship policy on their website or ask them to mail a copy to you.
  • Check if you are eligible for any rates concessions. If you are, ask for the concession to be applied from the date you became eligible.
  • Choose the type of assistance that best meets your needs. Only agree to an arrangement and payment you can afford  (see Step 01 on figuring out how much you can afford)
  • Confirm that the council will not take legal action while they consider your request for hardship
  • Keep in contact with your council until an agreed repayment arrangement is made
  • Stick to the payments once you’ve agreed to a repayment plan


  • Request that they don’t charge you fees or interest on the outstanding amount.
  • See if they will write off or reduce any part of the amount outstanding, such as interest already added, if you stick with your payment arrangement.
  • If you sell your property, you will still have to pay the total of any unpaid or deferred council rates at time of settlement.
  • If you are no longer living in your property, you will still have to pay your council rates.
  • If your council will not help, consider lodging a complaint with your State or Territory Ombudsman.


Consider accessing your superannuation

If the council is threatening to sell your home, you may be able to access some of your superannuation early to pay your council rate arrears and prevent this from happening.

The grounds for early access to super are very limited and there can be risks in doing this. See our page Early Release of Superannuation to Prevent Foreclosure for more information on eligibility and how to apply.


Speak to one of our financial counsellors

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some help to deal with your financial hardship, you can speak with one of our financial counsellors.

Financial counsellors aren’t judgmental about your circumstances – they’re here to offer you free, confidential and independent advice and assistance.

To speak to a financial counsellor you can:

  • Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 – open Weekdays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
  • Use our live chat service by clicking the chat icon in the bottom right corner of your screen. Live chat is available 9:00 am to 8.00 pm weekdays. If you send a message outside these hours a financial counsellor will get back to you.
  • Make an appointment to see a financial counsellor in your local area – Find a local Financial Counsellor.



You have rights when it comes to your council rates.

Waiving your rates

A council is not obliged to waive your rates (even if you make a waiver application).

However, the council should still:

  • give genuine consideration to your application and any reasonable alternatives that will help you to overcome your financial hardship
  • give reasons if it rejects your application, and ensure those reasons reflect legitimate considerations referable to your circumstances

If you’re not happy with the reasons given, call us on 1800 007 007 and speak to one of our financial counsellors.

Not paying your rates

If you don’t pay your rates, the council can take legal action to recover them.

The council has two ways it can take legal action:

  • Start proceedings in the local or magistrates court for the amount of the outstanding rates; or
  • Sell your property after a period of time of arrears.

Councils are more likely to start legal proceedings. If the council gets judgment, it can enforce that judgment through the court.

To avoid legal action, it’s important to make a repayment arrangement with your council as soon as possible. If the council threatens legal action or commences legal action get free legal advice.