Council blasted for naming and shaming homeowner

THE Queensland Ombudsman has slammed Toowoomba Regional Council for shaming a homeowner with a "humiliating" sign.

An auction notice was displayed on a homeowner's property informing the public they couldn't pay their rates.

The homeowners were named which led to a complaint being lodged with the Queensland Ombudsman.

The report by Ombudsman Phil Clarke stated: "Many people would consider the inability to pay their bills, as and when they become due, to be a matter of shame and embarrassment."

He said the homeowner's distress was a reasonably foreseeable response to the publication within a person's community of the fact they could not pay their bills.

"Many would be at a low point in their lives and more vulnerable than they would ordinarily be.

"The complainant in this case expressed their distress in terms of humiliation and the feeling of being attacked."

Mr Clarke found the council's actions in including the homeowner's name on the auction notice to be "unreasonable".

A redacted version of the sign displayed by Toowoomba Regional Council.
A redacted version of the sign displayed by Toowoomba Regional Council.

The council had argued its approach was consistent with advice from an "eminent local government law firm".

It responded to the report by saying a change to local government regulations were needed for it to cease naming and shaming people.

Mr Clarke said he did not accept that council was required by the regulations to include a landowner's name on the auction notice.

He recommended that the council cease including landowners' names in its auction notices.

Mr Clarke said it would be appropriate for the Queensland Government to provide advice to all Queensland councils regarding the issue, given the "inconsistent approach taken by councils in relation to the publication of landowners' names on auction notices".


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The Chronicle revealed on December 15 that council had sold three properties to recoup overdue rates.  

Three properties were sold at auction on November 18 due to long outstanding - greater than three years - rates and charges.  

Outstanding rates totalling $17,084.91 were fully recovered at the conclusion of the auction process.  

In November the council endorsed a plan to auction the land of 43 properties across the Toowoomba region.

The owners had owed a total of $536,060 and council wanted to recoup the money.

In October it was revealed that the number of overdue rates and charges letters sent by council had jumped by 18%.

A report showed 4750 overdue rates notices were issued between September 16 and 21 this year.