Northern Ireland

Land and Property Services rates non-payment legal action rises by 5%

The number of court actions started for non-payment of rates is on the rise, according to figures provided to the BBC.

Legal action was launched almost 49,000 times last year; a rise of 5%.

More than £1bn is collected in rates annually by Land and Property Services (LPS) and court actions have helped it to reduce arrears to £162m.

The Housing Rights Service, which helps those in payment difficulties, said it was "not surprised" by the figures.

"We would welcome a review of recovery practice to afford ratepayers more time to repay arrears and avoid costly court action," said one of its managers, Ursula Toner.

LPS said that in about 50% of cases, notification of court action was enough to result in either payment of arrears in full or by another arrangement.

However, the rest ended up in court.

The figures relate to the 2013/14 financial year, which saw rates arrears by households and business reduce by £6m on the previous 12 months.

The amount of debt written off - money owed that could not be recovered - increased by £2m to £31m.

The rise is said to reflect companies going into liquidation or administration, in what remains a challenging economic climate for many businesses.

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