Warning after Aussies' 'heartbreaking' discovery: 'Check your bills'

·3-min read

Residents on the Gold Coast are furious after realising they have been overpaying their council rates, with one man being overcharged for nearly two decades.

Homeowner Brian Reichelt from Upper Coomera might be $10,000 out of pocket after unwittingly paying rental property rates instead of owner-occupier rates.

In 2004, Mr Reichelt says he told Gold Coast council he had purchased a property that was previously a rental and asked for the changes to be made so he would be paying the correct rates.

However, it wasn't until it recently came to light that some homeowners were paying rental property rates that Mr Reichelt realised he too had been overcharged.

"I'm not the only one I'm one of hundreds of people in this situation," he told 9 News.

Pictured is Brian Reichelt from Upper Coomera who has been paying the wrong rate for years.
Brian Reichelt has been paying rental property rates instead of owner rates. He may have overpaid some $10,000. Source: 9News Gold Coast

More than 100 ratepayers have come forward to council with claims of being overcharged since 9 News highlighted the problem last month.

Mr Reichelt told the Gold Coast Bulletin he put his faith in the council almost two decades ago to "do the right thing", but he says they let him down.

Though he isn't sure exactly how much he was overpaying during those 19 years, he estimates it could be as high as $10,000.

On the Gold Coast, 'Residential 1' refers to properties occupied by the homeowner, whereas 'Residential 2' properties are rentals, the Bulletin explained.

Mr Reichelt didn't pick up on the error for years because the property on his notices was simply listed as "residential". He said the notices were "cryptic" and "vague".

Up until seven years ago, mother Megan Felton was paying the correct council rates. Then her category was changed.

"We've never rented a house out, we've lived here the entire time," she told 9News Gold Coast, saying it was "heartbreaking" that people were being overcharged.

A City of Gold Coast spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia the council sends a data collection form when a residential property changes ownership. This is done so the new owner can confirm the property use.

"Council’s adopted rating structure has different rating categories based on the property use and occupancy status," the spokesperson said.

"The current rating category will be applicable until such a time the Data Collection Form confirming current property use is returned or an Objection to Categorisation is lodged."

Gold Coast Council to investigate rate error

Residents are also being told to check their rate notices to ensure they are paying the correct amount and they have just days to rectify any mistakes.

A council spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo News Australia the City will allow a credit to the rate account, or refund upon request regarding the overpayments on rate categorisations "where a valid objection notice is received within 30 days of the rate notice issue date".

"The rating category change can only be applied from the start of the rate notice period that is being contested," the spokesperson added.

Pictured is an aerial shot of the Gold Coast in Queensland
More than 100 residents on the Gold Coast have come forward to say they have been charged the incorrect amount. Source: AAP

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has requested a review into the complaints relating to the potential incorrect payments of rate notices.

Council CEO Tim Baker will review the complaints.

"I'd say to anyone who's just bought a property, check your rate notice. That [the property] might have been an investment property before, and now you've become a principal resident," Mayor Tate said.

"It's a different rate rating part of it. So check your bills, any bills."

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