File photo. Dublin City Council building on Wood Quay. Shutterstock/Robson90

Dublin City Council is owed €33 million in rent arrears from its council housing tenants

The amount the council is owed in rent arrears rose 14% last year.

THE LEVEL OF rent arrears amount tenants of council housing in Dublin city has risen by over €4m to almost €33m during 2019 with 25 households now owing the local authority at least €27,000 each.

New figures published by Dublin City Council show rent owed by tenants increased by 14% last year – the largest annual increase since 2014 when arrears stood at €23.6m.

There are 25 tenants which each owe in excess of €27,000 to the council with the largest single debt standing at just over €38,000.

Dublin City Council, which is the country’s largest local authority, currently has 24,574 rented tenancies which provide a home to just under 67,000 individuals.

The latest figures show around 60% of tenants are in arrears with over 5% of tenants owing at least €7,000.

The council’s chief executive, Owen Keegan, said approximately 40% of tenants in arrears have an arrangement with the council to pay the money owed over an agreed period of time.

Keegan said the council employed 17 staff whose job it was to continuously monitor and manage the accounts of tenants and to engage with those at an early stage of missed payments with many encouraged to sign up for direct debit or household budget payments.

“Every effort is made by executive housing officers to agree a repayment plan with the tenant,” said Keegan.

The council also stops carrying out routine maintenance of council properties if a tenant’s account is in arrears or if they have not entered or adhered to a satisfactory repayment plan.

In addition, tenants in arrears are not considered for transfer to another council house or apartment unless they have engaged with the council about clearing their debt, while any sub-tenants seeking their own accommodation from the council will also have their application put on hold.

The council normally issues at least three warning letters to a tenant who has fallen into arrears with their rent before taking steps to initiate court proceedings to evict them from the property.

Only one tenant has been evicted for rent arrears since 2014.

Keegan said a review of the council’s processes and procedures for the collection of rent arrears was ongoing.

He pointed out that a section of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 which allows rent due to local authorities to be deducted directly from social welfare payments had not yet been commenced.

According to the council, 13,584 of tenants who are the principal earner in their household, are currently in receipt of social welfare payments.

The minimum weekly rent for someone on a social welfare payment of €203 is €25.65 which is currently paid by 1,188 tenants.

There are no tenants paying the maximum weekly rent of €423.

The average weekly rent is €69.41 with the highest weekly rent charge registered as €265.87.

The weekly rent is determined in accordance with the council’s 2019 Differential Rent Scheme which is linked to household income and is calculated at 15% of the household’s biggest earner.

Tenants are obliged to notify the council of any changes in household income or number of tenants.

“When tenants fail to notify the council and reviews are carried out – this can lead to assumed incomes and large retrospective debts being applied,” said Keegan.

Seán McCárthaigh
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