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This letter threatens tenants with eviction if they don't pay water charges

It was sent to tenants who are part of the Rental Accommodation Scheme in Wicklow County Council.

Updated 10.24pm

THE FOLLOWING LETTER was sent to tenants who are part of the government’s Rental Accommodation Scheme in Co. Wicklow…

It tells householders that a failure to pay water charges for the property they’re living in could result in a breach of their tenancy agreement “and could jeopardize your tenancy”.

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The letter was the subject of a heated debate in the Dáil this afternoon between Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald — who presented it to the chamber — and Tánaiste Joan Burton.

Uncertainty

There’s been some uncertainty in recent days over who would be liable in circumstances where a tenant refuses to pay their water charges.

Irish Water was Tweeting customers yesterday, saying that, if a tenant refused to register and pay the charges, the landlord would be held responsible.

The semi-state company has sent out a revised statement on the issue since then — but it didn’t really do much to clear-up the situation. This morning, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said more clarity was needed in the area.

Council response

Speaking to TheJournal.ie this afternoon, a spokesperson for Wicklow County Council said the text of their letter was based on information they’d received from Irish Water.

“We were responding to a lot of concern from landlords in the RAS scheme,” the spokesperson said.

The landlords were looking for assurances that the tenant would be responsible in such cases, she said.

In a statement issued this evening, the council said:

Wicklow County Council has taken the step to issue these letters in order to protect tenants at risk of breaching the terms of their tenancy agreements with landlords.This should be seen in the context of an increasing number of landlords withdrawing from the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), leading in some situations to homelessness.In highlighting particular aspects of the RAS contract Wicklow County Council is attempting to safeguard the RAS scheme and its tenants by reminding them of their obligations under the scheme.

The Dáil row…

Addressing concerns raised by McDonald in the Dáil today, the Tánaiste pointed out that Sinn Féin and independent councillors controlled Wicklow Council, and suggested local representatives should contact their county manager to discuss the situation.

McDonald, however, accused Burton of deliberately misrepresenting how government works, saying it was local authorities’ responsibility to administer policy laid down in Dublin.

Speaking afterwards to TheJournal.ie, McDonald said that — as the RAS is a State-wide scheme, and not limited solely to Wicklow — “what I wanted Joan Burton to do today was to give assurances to all of those families”.

I had hoped that she would stand up and say ‘look there will be no question of a threat to anybody’s home or the roof over their head.

“Unfortunately, she wasn’t prepared to give that assurance.”

The RAS scheme is an initiative run by local councils whereby contracts are drawn up between tenants and landlords to provide accommodation for people with a long-term housing need.

Irish Water has been contacted for further comment and clarification.

Originally published 4.07pm

Read: I’m a landlord, and my tenant won’t pay water charges … Who’s liable?>

Read: I rent my home, who pays for my water?>

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