MORE than $22 million has been recovered in overdue rates since the Fraser Coast Regional Council began using a specialist agency to to undertake debt recovery – and Councillor Paul Truscott believes the initiative may be helping people hold on to their homes.

The recovery of overdue rates was outsourced to Collection House in 2015 and since then $22.7 million has been recovered.

Currently about $14.5 million in rates remain overdue, owed by 13,559 ratepayers.

The council has been forced to auction off properties in the past to reclaim rates that have been unpaid for more than three years.

But according to a statement from the council, the use of Collection House is helping people before it gets to that stage, with the measure preventing overdue balances from getting about a manageable level.

“The sale of homes is a last resort,” the statement read.

“Whether homes are listed for sale depends on whether rates are paid.

“Rates can be paid until the start of the auction.”

Cr Truscott said the council was not trying to rule with an iron fist when it came to the collection of rates.

He said he had heard some very sad stories as to why people had been unable to pay their rates, but there needed to be compromise to ensure payments were being made.

Cr Truscott urged people to budget and take advantage of the council’s direct debit option to pay rates fortnightly or weekly.

He said he had spoken to constituents who had been able to catch up on rates after finding themselves in a position where it became likely their home would need to be auctioned off.

The statement from council said the previous system for collecting overdue rates had little impact on reducing the outstanding amount as the council’s rates revenue section was not resourced to provide a full debt recovery process..

But with the recovery process now more structured, ratepayers are assisted in managing the debt.