Landlords ‘can’t use’ deposits for water bills

Environment Minister Alan Kelly has warned that property owners cannot withhold tenants’ deposits or deduct parts of them because of disputes or concerns about water bills being left unpaid.

Mr Kelly made the comments as the Coalition last night passed legislation to compel landlords to pass on tenant details to Irish Water and restrict the selling of properties if bills remain unpaid.

TDs opposed to charges claimed the laws were being rammed through the Dáil, that it was a parliamentary “sham” and that further legislation to be debated today will allow Irish Water raid people’s welfare or wages.

Mr Kelly last night said he would shortly be introducing separate legislation to protect tenants’ deposits. He also issued a warning, saying landlords could not retain deposits over water charges.

“A valid question was raised in regard to some student accommodation owners looking for additional deposits from students.

“There is no basis for that and that practice is unacceptable. There is no basis for additional deposits being asked for student accommodation,” he said.

Socialist TDs Ruth Coppinger and Paul Murphy said landlords would not be entitled to evict tenants if they did not pay their water bills despite the fact that new leases will require occupiers to pay charges.

“Landlords will not evict tenants who do not pay water charges, given that non-payment has no impact on landlords.

“The legislation is not retrospective. Those who have existing tenancy agreements that do not specify that people must pay water charges will not experience any change,” he said.

Earlier, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald accused the Government of turning the parliament into a “sham”. She said further legislation, the Civil Debt Bill, which will be debated today will allow Irish Water to deduct people’s social welfare payments or their wages.

“One of the pieces of legislation allows the Government to raid people’s social welfare payments, to stick its hand in people’s pockets and to deduct unpaid water charges with absolute disregard for the circumstances of those people,” she said.

Junior environment minister Paudie Coffey yesterday denied claims from the Opposition benches that money from property taxes was going towards Irish Water: 100% of property taxes were going towards local authorities, he told the Dáil.

Opposition TDs during the debate on the legislation were also told that there was no legal issues with landlords passing on tenants data to Irish Water.

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