A Howick homeowner who could lose his home in a forced sale application by Auckland Council hasn't paid rates in seven years.
The former builder who is now on the dole says he's unable to pay the large rates bill, which he estimates could now total about $25,000.
He has labelled the council's attempt to take his home "ruthless" and is vowing to stay put if officials try to evict him.
But the council has hit back, saying the man has ignored repeated requests to pay what he owes. He began to get into arrears 11 years ago and has failed to make a rates payment since 2013.
"Unfortunately, our attempts over the past decade to engage with this particular ratepayer and work with him on a solution have been unsuccessful – this includes multiple attempts at writing to him and visiting the property," acting group financial officer Kevin Ramsay said.
"We never take legal action lightly and a forced rating sale is our absolute last resort when all other options to settle the issue have been exhausted."
The Herald revealed yesterday that Auckland Council has gone to court to force the sale of the man's home.
If the council is successful, the man would become just the second super city homeowner to lose his property in a forced rating sale.
His bill pales in comparison to the city's biggest outstanding rates debt - more than $200,000 for a property in Freemans Bay.
The Herald has fought for months for details about the case. The council has refused to provide information, citing privacy concerns and fears publication could "cause shame and further hardship".
A judge granted access to court documents earlier this month, but suppressed the defendant's identity.
In a written statement, Ramsay said the $14,000 figure which court documents say is owed by the man is incorrect.
But Ramsay refused to disclose the actual amount, saying only "the sum involved in this action is considerably higher".
"Finding the money to pay rates can be stressful for those juggling competing financial demands, which is why we try to work with ratepayers early on to help find solutions, including having a number of measures in place to help Aucklanders facing hardship."
The council is hiking rates to help address a $750 million revenue hit from Covid-19 and Auckland's water crisis.
It has offered deferment for ratepayers struggling financially as a result of the pandemic, and set aside an additional $50m in its emergency budget to support those needing rates relief.
But there are fears that more ratepayers will default as job losses kick in when the Government's wage subsidy ends and mortgage holidays dry up later this year.
Ramsay said in rare cases involving legal action, ratepayer could sign up to a rates postponement agreement or payment plan to avoid losing their homes.
"In this case, the ratepayer has not completed the postponement form which we have provided on a number of occasions.
"Our preference is always for people who are struggling to pay their rates to speak to us so that we can come to an agreement that allows them to stay in their homes. We do, however, need to be fair to all ratepayers, and must balance non-payment of rates with the hundreds of thousands of Aucklanders who meet their legal obligations and pay for the services the council provides.
"Our door remains open to resolve this issue quickly and amicably."
Nearly 30,000 errant ratepayers owe Auckland Council more than $35m.
The Howick man told the Herald he had been "wiped out" financially after an acrimonious relationship split and had no way of repaying the money from his weekly dole.
The former prison inmate and self-styled jailhouse bush lawyer also questioned the council's legal right to levy rates and admitted he had not read numerous council letters sent to his address.
"They're going to evict me from my own house? That's just ruthless. That's not fair.
"I can't see how I'm going to pay [the council] when the lawyers have taken all the money. There's nothing left."
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