Landlords ‘may not have grasped’ water charge proposals

A Minister has claimed that landlords “may not have got a full understanding” of controversial government proposals to address arrears in water charges payments.

Children’s Minister James Reilly made the comments after a national organisation representing landlords said it has “grave concerns” regarding elements of the Government’s plans to tackle unpaid water bills.

Stephen Faughnan, chairman of the Irish Property Owners Association, said plans to require landlords to hold on to their tenants’ deposits until the renter has furnished proof that water charges have been paid were “fraught with difficulty; totally unacceptable; and unworkable”.

“Who takes priority in situations where rent has not been paid or extensive damage has been caused? Data Protection legislation may intervene in the process. Detailed clarification is required before an assessment on the situation can be fully made,” he said.

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Mr Faughnan was also critical of provisions that would block the sale of any property where the water charges were in arrears.

“Forcing landlords to collect water charges is unfair, unacceptable and going to cause more difficulties for the sector. A possible result of this idea will be that deposits will increase significantly and more landlords will leave the sector,” he said.

However, speaking to reporters at a same sex marriage equality referendum event in Dublin, Children’s Minister Dr James Reilly said landlords are wrong in their view.

When told landlords are considering potentially trebling current deposits to take account of the situation, the cabinet member claimed they “may not have got a full understanding” of what is being proposed.

A Government spokesman later said landlords will only be required to hold deposits until such time as the tenant provides proof the water charges have been paid.

“On provision of the proof, the landlord can return the deposit to the tenant – the landlord will have no direct engagement with Irish Water in relation to a tenant’s water bill and will not be required to pay any outstanding water charges directly out of the deposit. There should be no need, therefore, for landlord’s to seek increased tenant deposits in regard to water charges.”

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