Concern that Irish Water could pressure landlords to hand over former tenants’ PPS numbers has led TDs to demand an intervention by the Data Protection Commissioner.
Independent TD and anti-water charges campaigner Catherine Murphy said such a move would smack of “Big Brother” attitudes to personal information by the utility.
Former minister Roisin Shortall also condemned any such move to trace tenants who may have moved on from properties.
The Data Protection Commission said it had not yet discussed with Irish Water the matter of the utility using PPS numbers to try and trace ex-tenants, but a spokeswoman said: “I’m sure it will come up in due course.”
The demand by Irish Water for its 2.2m customers, including children, to hand over PPS numbers has been one of the most controversial elements of its start-up.
Confusion was sparked by the water company over the liability landlords would carry for tenants who did not pay.
But landlords have insisted it is not their role to help track down ex-tenants.
“In this instance, landlords would not be registering the tenants. So in this instance, it will be up to the tenants,” Fintan McNamara of the Residential Landlords Association told RTÉ.
The backlash against council threats to evict tenants who fail to pay water charges has led to a Cabinet minister branding the strong-arm tactics “inappropriate”.
Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said: “I would hope county councils would observe a sympathetic view. My hope is that most people will pay their fair share of water charges.
“We are the only country in Europe that does not have a charge for water, so I would call on county councils to be sensitive to the needs of people and talking about evictions at this stage is not only unhelpful but inappropriate.”
Agriculture Minster Simon Coveney urged Irish Water to improve its communications effort.
“There are serious teething problems with Irish Water at the moment and they need to be addressed as a serious priority. There needs to be a more effective communications structure,” he said.
Sinn Féin has hit out at what it calls the “bullyboy” tactics by councils who have sent “threatening” letters to Rental Accommodation Scheme tenants that say they could face eviction if they do not pay their water charges. One of the party’s Wicklow councillors, John Brady, said: “I think it is an intimidating letter, bullyboy tactics being employed here. It follows on from other bullyboy tactics that have been engaged.”
The row came as the High Court gave a water meter installation company permission to serve legal proceedings on a number of people allegedly interfering with workers putting in the meters.
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