Skip to main content

Problems paying your bills and fines

Understand your options and how to get help

Page reading time: 4 minutes

If money's tight, it can be hard to keep up with regular payments like rent, electricity and phone — or unexpected fines. Here are a few simple steps you can take to sort things out.

Problems paying your rent

If you think you'll have trouble paying your rent, talk to your landlord or real estate agent. Ask about reducing or deferring payments for 30 days until you have a better idea of your income.

Put the request in writing, so you have evidence that you've tried to resolve the situation. Use this template letter from Tenants' Union NSW.

Loans without interest: apply for a Household Relief Loan to pay for rent and utilities if you've been financially impacted by COVID-19. Loans are for up to $3,000, have no interest or fees and are repayable over 24 months. 

Problems paying bills

If you can't pay your electricity, gas, phone or water bill, contact your service provider straight away. They will explain your options, such as:

If you don't contact your provider, they may suspend or disconnect your service.

Not paying could also harm your credit score.

If you need a step-by-step guide on what to do, see the National Debt Helpline's get your bills under control.

Utility voucher agencies

You can apply for a utility rebate or voucher by contacting the agency in your state directly.

National

Services Australia (13 62 40):

All utilities

Advance Payment

Electricity, water and sewerage rates

Utilities Allowance

Electricity for medical equipment

Essential Medical Equipment Payment

Phone

Telephone Allowance

Telstra (13 22 00) also offers the following:

Phone

Telstra Bill Assistance Program

Telstra Pensioner Discount

Australian Capital Territory

Electricity and gas

ACT Government: Utilities Concession

Actew AGL Retail 13 14 93
Origin Country Energy 13 24 61
Energy Australia 13 34 66

New South Wales

Electricity and gas

NSW Government: Energy rebates

Water

Water Payment Assistance Scheme
Sydney Water: Payment assistance 13 20 92
Hunter Water: Payment assistance 1300 657 657

South Australia

South Australian Government (1800 307 758):

Electricity, gas, water and council rates

Residential Park Resident Concessions

Electricity and gas

Energy concessions

Water and sewerage rates

Water and sewerage rate concession

Tasmania

Department of Communities Tasmania (1300 135 513):

Electricity

Annual Electricity Concession

Heating Allowance

Life Support Concession

Medical Cooling or Heating Concession

Water and sewerage rates

Water and Sewerage Concession

Western Australia

Electricity, gas and water

Government of WA: Hardship Utility Grant Scheme (HUGS) 
08 9222 2739

Problems paying insurance premiums

If you're struggling to pay your home, car or health insurance premiums or excess, contact your insurer straight away. Explain your situation and tell them you would like to apply for financial hardship. They may provide assistance to help you pay your excess if you need to make a claim.

Some health insurers are offering premium waivers or suspending memberships for members affected by COVID-19. Some insurers are also delaying or cancelling their 2020 rate increase. Check with your insurer. 

Problems paying council rates

If you can't pay, contact your council as soon as possible. Ask about your payment options, such as:

For a step-by-step guide on what to do, see the National Debt Helpline's pay your rates.

If you don't pay your rates, the council could charge you a penalty — usually the interest on the amount you owe.

Not paying could also harm your credit score.

Problems paying fines

If you can't pay parking, speeding or littering fines, it's important to contact your state debt recovery agency straight away:

Ask about your options, such as:

If you don't make contact with the state debt recovery agency, they may:

For a step-by-step guide on what to do, see the National Debt Helpline's paying fines.

Get help sorting out bills and fines

Talk to a financial counsellor

Financial counsellors offer free, independent and confidential help to people with money problems. They may also negotiate with creditors on your behalf.

Get free legal advice

Community legal centres and Legal Aid agencies in every state and territory offer free legal advice.

Make a complaint

If you're in financial hardship and your service provider won't help, you can make a complaint (usually for free).