A Howick homeowner who has not paid rates in seven years has struck an 11th hour deal with Auckland Council to save his home, meaning he won't have to repay the money until he dies.
The Herald can reveal the former builder owes more than $33,000 to the council. About $14,000 is overdue in rates while nearly $17,000 is penalties. He also owes $3000 in court costs.
The agreement means the man's $33,000 bill has been postponed. He will not have to pay rates till "after I leave the Earth", when his house is likely to be sold and the outstanding amount deducted on behalf of Auckland ratepayers.
The deal follows a Herald investigation which revealed the council had applied to the High Court to forcible sell the man's home, which he'd labelled "unfair and ruthless".
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, would have become just the second super city homeowner to lose their property in a court-ordered rating sale if the process had continued.
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After the Herald's story last month, a council official visited the man's property and proposed a resolution, he said.
"I've been given a piece of paper to sign. I won't pay rates until after I've left the Earth."
Despite reaching a deal with the council, the man told the Herald last week he still had no idea how much he owed. He admitted ignoring numerous letters from Auckland Council about his overdue rates.
He described the penalty rates he'd incurred as "legal theft".
"It was just penalty this, penalty that. I opened up a letter and most of the payment was just penalties."
Asked whether he agreed it was unfair to ignore his financial obligations to the city despite enjoying the benefits of piped drinking water, waste water, footpaths and roads, he said: "I didn't ask them to be giving that to me."
The man stressed that he'd been "wiped out" financially by lawyers following an acrimonious relationship breakup and had no way of repaying his huge rates bill from his weekly dole.
He also questioned the legal right of Auckland Council to levy rates on the city's residents, despite hundreds of thousands of other homeowners duly meeting their rates obligations.
"That's life, that's their choice isn't it. If they believe they have to pay their rates then they will.
"What I was doing was asking them to show me where it says I have to pay in the law."
The man now wanted the council to "sit down properly" and show him how much he owed, "not just come round and say, 'Sign this form, here's a card, see you later'."
Auckland Council's acting group financial officer Kevin Ramsay told the Herald forced ratings sales were a last resort when all other settlement options had been exhausted.
Ramsay confirmed the man now owed about $36,000 in rates, penalties and court costs.
Though a postponement deal had been reached, the man would still have to pay the rates and penalties. His bill would also incur 2 per cent annual interest.
Ramsay said council would not be taking "immediate steps to recover" the court costs.
Ramsay confirmed the man would continue to incur rates on the property - currently about $2700 a year - which would be added to the grand total if they were also postponed.
The man could continue to postpone his rates until he sold the property, died, no longer used the property as his primary residence, or the amount of the postponed rates exceeded 80 per cent of the property's value.
"He is required to renew his application each rating year, to assure Council that he still complies with the policy requirements.
"This does not mean he no longer has to pay his rates. Should he no longer meet the criteria as outlined above, we will still take steps to recover the costs. The next step in these circumstances is to proceed to a rating sale.
"Rating sales are extremely rare however, like all enforcement action, it ensures we maintain a fair system for all ratepayers."
Last year 35 overdue rates cases resulted in postponement, Ramsay said.
The council is hiking rates this year to help address a $750 million revenue hit from Covid-19 and Auckland's water crisis.
It has offered deferment for ratepayers struggling financially and set aside an additional $50m to support those needing rates relief.
Nearly 30,000 Auckland ratepayers owe more than $35m in overdue rates. The city's biggest rates debt is more than $200,000 for a Freemans Bay property.