Anti-water charges campaigners say the Irish Property Owners Association’s claim — which will affect 458,000 households, many of whom have been priced out of the property market — is another example of why Irish Water is unworkable.
In a statement last night, the landlords’ group said that, despite Government claims that property owners could take unpaid water charge fees out of a tenant’s rent deposit, existing legislation prevents this. The association stressed this would be “a blatant contravention of tenancy and letting agreements which legally specify that deposit retention can only be for rent arrears of damage” to a building.
Repeating their refusal to take responsibility for tenants’ non-rent bills, the interest group said the plan is deeply flawed. It warned if the plan is not removed they will be forced to impose a second deposit on new tenants to ensure the bills are covered — which could potentially cost an extra €1,000 per home.
Responding to a file provided to the group by Environment Minister Alan Kelly, association chairman Stephen Faughnan said: “The document says the landlord would be entitled to withhold the amount of any debt due to Irish Water from the normal tenancy deposit. This is a blatant contravention of tenancy and letting agreements which legally specify deposit retention can only be for rent arrears or damage.
“The proposal would require landlords to demand a water deposit, in addition to the normal deposit.”
Speaking to the Irish Examiner last night, a property association spokeswoman said the average deposit in Ireland is €800, although the figure is far higher in larger cities such as Dublin.
She said if landlords are forced to take responsibility for a tenant’s water charge payments, future “water deposits” could be up to €1,000. The spokeswoman said the high rate, which would be paid on top of the deposit on a rental home, is based on the €260 annual charge for a family under Irish Water plans, and the fact that anyone who is in a home for six months has a right to stay there for another three and a half years.
A Department of Environment spokesperson said “draft legislation will be brought forward next year” to “insert into all tenancy agreements/leases a deemed obligation on the tenant to discharge their liability for water charges”.
However, the association has raised concerns over how this will work for existing agreements. Right2Water, which is organising a protest on December 10, said the issue shows the water charges are unworkable.
“There’s a housing and renting crisis,” said a spokesperson. “How are people in a very vulnerable position going to find that extra money?”
The association has also raised “grave concerns” over how, if landlords are forced to take responsibility for tenants’ water charge bills, they may soon be asked to take responsibility for other “personal debt” such as ESB or TV licence payments.
It said the move is also likely to result in landlords being more reluctant to take part in Mr Kelly’s housing strategy plan, which was launched on Wednesday and which is seeking to house all 90,000 people on social housing waiting lists by 2020 in part through 75,000 deals with private landlords.