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Landlords could TRIPLE deposits in response to Irish Water billing move

The government wants landlords to withhold deposits until proof of payment to Irish Water is provided.

Image: water tap image via Shutterstock

Updated 8.40am

THE HEAD OF landlords group the Residential Landlords Association has warned his members may have to triple deposits demanded of tenants in response to new government proposals on water charges.

The Cabinet last night approved proposals to deduct outstanding charges from the wages or social welfare payments of non-payers.

That move had been well flagged in advance – but last night’s announcement also included a proposal obliging landlords to withhold deposits from renters, until proof of payment to Irish Water is provided.

Landlords had been lobbying against that move, and Fintan McNamara of the RLA said this morning it was an “outrageous imposition” – and would make them, essentially, “debt collectors for Irish water”.

The move had the potential to magnify disputes over deposits “hugely” he said, adding that in order for it to work properly, deposits would have to be trebled. 

“We will try and have a meeting again with the minister to see if we can persuade him to change course on this,” McNamara said.

The government has stressed this is a “temporary role for landlords” until the PRTB takes over deposit protection.

Other measures

The proposed measures to deduct payments from wages or dole payments refer to the recovery of civil debt in general – but there will be specific provisions for the water compliance.

Under the proposals, creditors will be able to apply to the court for an order enabling either an attachment of earnings or deductions from social welfare payments.

Meanwhile, the legislation will allow the Department of Environment to strengthen the regulatory regime around the payment of water charges through measures not involving the courts.

As well as the deposit measure, it also means:

  • The liability of the water charges will transfer automatically to an owner of a property if the owner has not provided Irish Water with the necessary details for a tenant.
  • There will be an obligation in all new tenancy agreements for the person who lives there to pay water charges, other than short-term lets where the landlord can retain this liability.
  • There will be an obligation to confirm that water charges are paid before the completion of the sale of a property to include a requirement to discharge arrears of water charges.

The government said the legislation will abolish imprisonment for non payment of debt for the vast majority of debtors.

Commenting this evening, Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, said “everyone has to be treated the same here”.

“We can’t have a situation where some people are paying their water charges while others simply refuse to pay. These measures are aimed at ensuring fairness in the application of water charges and will complement the civil debt procedures bill which will significantly reform the way all civil debt is treated in Ireland and move it way from what is a currently excessively bureaucratic procedure.”

First published 6 May, 10pm. With reporting by Daragh Brophy.

Read: Water charges will be taken from people’s wages or dole>

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