A Whanganui woman is mystified about why a letter accompanying her rates demand says she may be able to get a rebate ...

Because even though she is a pensioner on a limited income, and even though she has had rebates before, she is no longer eligible.

Annabelle Smith — not her real name — has lived in her home for many years and has always faithfully paid the rates, but her name is not on the house's certificate of title.

That means she is not on Whanganui District Council's rating information database, and only people on the database are "legal ratepayers" and only they can apply for a rebate.

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"The Rates Rebate Scheme provides a rebate of up to $630 for low income earners who were paying rates for the home in which they were living on July 1, 2018," says the letter which accompanied her latest rates demand.

But Smith made her children the registered owners of her property some years ago. She put it in their names because she wanted to make sure they would never lose out on property as she had done in the past.

But she doesn't want the kids to pay her bills - she budgets carefully and pays all the property expenses.

She got the rates rebate until three years ago, but then the policy was changed.

Rating policy is set by the Department of Internal Affairs, a Whanganui council spokeswoman said. The department got stricter about legal ratepayer status three years ago and the council fell into line, meaning those not on the database now mised out.

Smith is annoyed that her bill says a rebate is still available for her, though her children could chose to pursue it.

Meanwhile, the council would like eligibility for rebates to loosen up, and made a submission to the Rates Rebate Amendment Bill in January last year.

It asked for the definition of ratepayer to include "the right to occupy a residential property with a life interest which may be pursuant to a will or through a family trust arrangement where the occupier pays a levy that is determined to form rates repayment".

The submission wasn't considered in time for the rating year that began on July 1, but it may be in future.