Maribyrnong City Council’s Covid hardship application form deliberately misleads homeowners by failing to tell them they have a legal right to apply to have their rates waived.
The right to apply for a rates waiver is legislated in the Local Government Act:
Section 171A Waiver by application—financial hardship
(1) A person who—
(a) is suffering financial hardship; or
(b) would suffer financial hardship if that person paid the full amount of a rate or charge for which he or she is liable—
may apply to a Council for the waiver of the whole or part of any rate or charge or of any interest imposed for late payment.
It's easy to find the form on the Maribyrnong Council website. Unfortunately the form fails to tell homeowners the full story of what they're entitled to.
The Maribyrnong City Council COVID-19 Application for Financial Hardship Form does not mention ratepayers rights’ to access waivers.
The form guides residents through a process to apply for either a payment plan or deferral of the due dates for the rate payment.
Nowhere does it ask if the ratepayer would like to apply for a waiver.
This deception is allowed under the Local Government Act. There are no penalties in the Local Government Act for Councils that publish misleading documents. There are no penalties for Councils that fail to provide full and honest information about a residents’ entitlements at law.
So there is nothing residents can do to complain about being misled, hold Council accountable, or prevent it happening again.