Single mum, Lorain (correct) McElligott, pictured with her children Takarli, 7, and Tarson, 4, is pleading with council for some compassion to allow her to enter in to a payment plan to pay her rates. Photo: Brett Wortman / Sunshine Coast Daily
Single mum, Lorain (correct) McElligott, pictured with her children Takarli, 7, and Tarson, 4, is pleading with council for some compassion to allow her to enter in to a payment plan to pay her rates. Photo: Brett Wortman / Sunshine Coast Daily Brett Wortman

Should council have a debt assistance plan?

A COTTON Tree homeowner is calling on Sunshine Coast Council to show a little compassion and allow gradual payments to chip away at an $11,000 rates debt.

Lorrain McElligott has begged with council to halt an order to sell her land at Cotton Tree, where she owns three units.

The single mother fears she will have to uproot her two young children and lose her life's work when the council sells her home over the debt.

Miss McElligott is one of more than 100 Sunshine Coast residents whose land will be sold because rates and charges are outstanding by three or more years.

Her tough trot started in 2009 when her company wound up and liquidators stepped in. The company as trustee owned the units and therefore liquidators took over control.

"I first received a letter from council in 2013 and I never knew I was that far behind because I wasn't aware the liquidators had stopped paying rates ... no one was reporting to me, I had no control," Miss McElligott said.

"I was receiving rates notices but I thought they were copies of the ones sent to liquidators and there were never any reminder notices.

"I never received anything again from council until may this year telling me there would be a notice of intention to sell.

"I wasn't in a position to pay the whole amount before June 3, but I said I was willing and wanted to enter in to a payment plan, but they said no, I had to pay in full.

"This can happen to honest, genuine people ... I am in a position to make payments and I want to. I offered $177 a fortnight, which would pay the debt and the current rates period in three years.

"It's just madness. The council needs to show more compassion. I don't know what I'm going to do."

While the council can not comment on specific cases, finance portfolio councillor Chris Thompson said the auctioning of properties was a last resort, used only after council had exhausted all avenues to allow property owners time to pay.

"We are now at the critical point of commencing the auction process, having gone through, in some cases, up to 30 contacts by council staff to encourage payment of these outstanding rates and charges.

"As well as payment plans, council officers have advised ratepayers of various options including contacting a financial counsellor, contacting their mortgagee regarding refinancing, seeking interest-free mortgage relief loans through the Department of Housing and Public Works and accessing early release of superannuation through the Department of Human Services."

Miss McElligott has called on other homeowners facing the same fate to join together with her to formulate a solution to pay off their debts to council.

"I feel so out of control, I'm just dumbfounded over the whole thing," she said.


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