'No alternative': Council selling properties over rates debt

LANDOWNERS who don't pay their rates should expect the council to sell their property.

Somerset Regional Council is hot on the heels of property owners who fall behind on their bills, with 10 owners at risk of losing their land.

The council this month sold an 8.8 hectare property at Windsor Park estate, south of Esk, after the owners repeatedly ignored notices to pay.

Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann said the property was subject to rate arrears and it was auctioned at the council office in Esko on April 12.

Cr Lehmann said officers worked hard with landholders to avoid holding rate auctions 'but sometimes there is just no alternative'.

"There was a good roll-up at the auction, some fairly spirited bidding and we are grateful for the support we received," he said.

The council recovered close to $9000 in overdue rates from the sale as well as the costs associated with the auction. Cr Lehmann said the remainder of the proceeds were distributed as legislation described.

The property was the first in a long line, after the council referred another 10 properties to solicitors to finalise.

"While we hope to avoid auctions, we did give the owners notice of our intentions last October," Cr Lehmann said.

"Rates pay for vital services to be delivered to residents and visitors to our region, including roads, public lighting, parks, emergency services, library services, kerbside rubbish services and much more."

The Queensland Local Government Regulation stipulates the local government, by resolution, may decide to sell the land if some or more of the overdue rates have been overdue generally for at least three years.

The regulation sets out what the council must use the proceeds of the sale for including paying the overdue rates balance, the expenses of the sale, owing land tax and other outstanding debts.

If any of the proceeds of sale remain unclaimed after two years, the local government must pay the proceeds to the public trustee as unclaimed money.