Housing group says tenants will not lose homes if they do not pay water charges

Clúid says it will resist any move to compel them to collect charges

 

Clúid, the largest voluntary housing association in the State, has said its tenants will not lose their homes if they do not pay water charges.

The association said it would resist any move by the Government to compel them to collect water charges, to increase rents to recoup unpaid water charges, or to evict tenants who did not pay the charges.

The Irish Property Owners Association, which represents private landlords, has said it will also resist any attempt to compel its members to collect charges on behalf of Irish Water.

The Government is currently drawing up legislation to deal with households who don’t pay water charges.

Clúid, which has more than 5,000 tenants across the State, issued a statement following concerns among some of them about a letter it sent advising it was a “term” of their tenancy that they paid all utility bills.

Rósa Corcoran, a Clúid tenant in Drogheda, said she found the letter she received from Christine Dibelius, customer services director with Clúid, dated 20th March 2015, “intimidating”.

It said Clúid was “legally obliged to provide tenants’ names to Irish Water under the water charges legislation” and advised tenants who had not registered with Irish Water that they still could do so.

“We would like to encourage tenants to register and to avoid the build up of arrears with Irish Water. Please note it is a term of your tenancy agreement that you, as the tenant, pay for all utility bills and other charges.”

Ms Corcoran said she found the last line “really horrible” describing it as a “veiled threat which is basically telling us that if we don’t pay up we are in breach of our tenancy agreement and subject to eviction...They have never interfered with any of the other utilities like electricity, gas. So why are they taking this enforcer role on behalf of the Government now?

“This is taking away our choice about whether we want to get involved with Irish Water at all.”

However, head of policy with Clúid, Simon Brooke, said there was “absolutely no threat” to tenancies if people did not pay water charges. The last line was intended to clarify it was the responsibility of the tenant to pay their bills and not Clúid’s.

“We value our relationship with our tenants which is based on an agreement that as long as they pay their rent and keep the dwelling well, they have a place to live. It is important to us that that basic agreement is not damaged. We would be very concerned at anything in any legislation on water charges could damage that.”

Stephen Faughnan, chair of the IPOA, said he and association members had met Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly and told him his members didn’t want to collect water charges from tenants, to increase rents or terminate tenancies over unpaid charges. “We would hope it wouldn’t come to that,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Local Government Managers Association said: “Local authority tenants are liable for water charges as occupier and consumer of water services.”