Municipal rates, fees and charges are the primary source of revenue for Council to ensure the ongoing delivery of a range of important services to the local community.
Council recognises that there are many reasons why members of the community may experience hardship.
Managing financial hardship is a shared responsibility and Council has a part to play while also ensuring that it has the funds to deliver services.
The purpose of this policy is to provide a framework for financial relief to individuals and business who need assistance due to financial hardship so that all applications are treated consistently, sensitively and confidentially while ensuring that other ratepayers are not disadvantaged by the granting of inappropriate relief.
This policy applies to all monies owed to Latrobe City Council except fines issued under the Council’s Local Laws which is dealt with under another policy.
The scope of this policy therefore includes rates, waste charges, fees and user charges, permits and animal registrations.
To the extent this policy is inconsistent with other current Council policies (excluding those applying to Council’s Local Laws), the provisions of this policy shall apply.
Ratepayer means the person responsible for the payment of rates (which in a commercial tenancy often means the tenant rather than the land owner).
Waive or waiver means to exempt a person or business from a requirement to pay.
Hardship and Identifying Hardship
Financial hardship may arise for many reasons including illness, unemployment, divorce/separation or cash flow problems.
What is usually not considered to constitute financial hardship as a ground for assistance under this policy is where the financial hardship arises from financial over commitment; an own decision (for example, resignation) or imprisonment.
A person is considered to be in financial hardship when they would be unable to provide food, accommodation, clothing, medical treatment, education or other basic necessities for themselves, their family or their dependants.
A business is considered to be in financial hardship when facing closure, disconnection of utilities, repossession of a vehicle necessary to the operation of the business or imminent legal action for non-payment of debts.
To establish financial hardship under this policy, the person or business must also show that the financial hardship is capable of remedy if payment arrangements were to change.
An application based on financial hardship from a ratepayer in relation to rates due on vacant land or from an owner of multiple properties (whether all in Latrobe City or not) will not be considered.
To ensure the financial hardship offered to one ratepayer does not unduly disadvantage other ratepayers, Council will not waive in whole or part any rate, levy, charge, special rate or special charge.
Relief under this policy for financial hardship is therefore limited to waiver of interest and legal fees on overdue payments, a deferment or a payment arrangement.
Where property ownership changes, all overdue rates and charges must be fully paid at settlement.
Council may decline to consider an application for relief due to financial hardship where the applicant has defaulted under a payment arrangement within the last year.
A deferment or payment arrangement under this policy will cease to have effect in the following circumstances:
- information requested by Council is not provided within 30 days of the request being made;
- the applicant provides any information to Council which is false or misleading;
- the applicant defaults on the arrangement;
- the circumstances giving rise to the financial hardship no longer exist; or
- in the case of a person, the applicant is deceased or declared bankrupt or in the case of business enters into administration or liquidation.
A person or business can apply to access relief for financial hardship by contacting 1300 367 700 or sending an email to email@example.com including the details of the circumstances preventing that person or business from meeting their financial obligations to Council.
Waiver of Interest and/or legal fees
Interest and legal costs may be waived where financial hardship is established.
Where a person or business is unable to commit to regular payments, a deferral will be considered.
A deferral is only permitted for one year up to a maximum of three years, with a new application being required to be submitted and assessed each year.
Deferment may be allowed only in relation to part of the debt if in all the circumstances the applicant can afford to pay a portion of the amount due.
The proposed payments must be regular (e.g. fortnightly, monthly).
If the payment arrangement is complete within the same financial year in respect of which the rates are levied, no interest will be charged.
Any application for relief due to financial hardship will be considered confidentially and objectively based on the information provided by the applicant.
Provided all requested information has been received, an applicant will be advised of the decision in writing within 14 days of receiving the application.
Where a person or business is dissatisfied with the outcome of their application, the person or business may ask the General Manager Organisational Performance to review the decision by completing and lodging the Appeal Against Decision form (Attachment A). The General Manager Organisational Performance will determine the appeal within 14 days from receipt of the form.
Penalty Interest Charges
Unless otherwise required by law or as provided for in a payment arrangement under this policy, interest is charged on all overdue amounts at the interest rate specified under section 2 of the Penalty Interest Rates Act 1983.
Debt recovery actions will not commence or will not continue when a deferral or payment arrangement is in place.
Accountability and Responsibility
Accountability and responsibility for this policy is outlined below.
- Responsibility to ensure this Policy is consistent with Latrobe City Council Strategic Direction
- Responsibility for the decision to approve this Policy by Council Resolution
Chief Executive Officer
- Overall responsibility for compliance with this policy
- Overall responsibility for enforcing accountability
- Overall responsibility for providing resources
- Overall responsibility for performance monitoring
- Responsibility for compliance with this policy
- Responsibility for enforcing accountability
- Responsibility for providing resources
- Responsibility for performance monitoring
- Develop frameworks and procedures in compliance with this policy
- Enforce responsibilities to achieve compliance with frameworks and procedures
- Provide appropriate resources for the execution of the frameworks and procedures
Employees, Contractors and Volunteers
- Participate where required in the development of frameworks and procedures in compliance with this policy.
- Comply with frameworks and procedures developed to achieve compliance with this policy.
This policy complies with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.
Evaluation and Review
This policy will be reviewed on request of Council, in the event of significant change in the Executive team, significant changes to legislation applicable to the subject matter of the policy or, in any other case, during each Council term (generally four years).