Landlords seek clarity on water tax arrears

The body representing residential landlords says it is "unbelievable, unacceptable, and unfair" that its members may be required to collect tenants’ outstanding water charges on behalf of Irish Water and has suggested the provision may be unconstitutional.

The Irish Property Owners Association says it will seek legal advice to clarify whether or not landlords can be compelled to take outstanding water charges owed by their tenants from their deposits.

A spokeswoman for the IPOA also said suggestions that landlords would not be able to get new tenants until outstanding water charges at their property were “unacceptable and unfair”.

A 50-page Irish Water FAQ document was issued following Environment Minister Alan Kelly’s announcement on water charges in the Dáil on Wednesday. It stated that any new tenants at a property will not be able to sign up with Irish Water unless the previous tenant’s account was up to date.

“In the event of the former tenant not discharging those arrears, the landlord would be entitled to withhold the amount concerned from the tenant’s deposit and would be required to remit the amount involved to Irish Water,” the document read.

The IPOA believe these provisions contradict what they had been told at a recent meeting between its members and an Irish Water official.

“This is unbelievable and absolutely goes against what was confirmed by Paul O’Donoghue, head of consumer operations at Irish Water, that the contract was between the tenant and Irish Water and had nothing to do with the landlord,” the spokeswoman said.

The IPOA have also asked whether this arrangement constituted a data protection issue, given that the contract is between Irish Water and the tenant, and does not include landlords.

Fianna Fáil councillor Padraig McNally, president of the Association of Irish Local Government, said his members were confused as to why councils would have to pursue tenants for outstanding charges when this was not expected of local authorities for unpaid electricity, gas, or broadband.

An Irish Water spokes-woman confirmed that the situation outlined by the Government on Wednesday had changed the situation as previously communicated to landlords.

“Irish Water awaits further clarification on the landlord/tenant situation when relevant legislation is passed,” said the spokes-woman. “However, these announcements do change the situation.”

The spokeswoman added that the utility is currently assessing the changes and will engage with the Data Protection Commission on the issue.

Housing charity Threshold said the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 allows a landlord to seek to make deductions from or retain a deposit if there is a default in the payment of rent or other charges or taxes payable in accordance with the lease agreement.

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