Tenants owe city council €21m in rent arrears

 

MORE THAN a quarter of Dublin City Council’s social housing tenants are more than three months in arrears on their rent payments, with many having paid no rent for more than a year.

The council is owed more than €21 million by its tenants, almost €20 million of which is owed by tenants who are more than 12 weeks in arrears, according to a report from its housing division.

Of the more than 6,392 tenants, who according to the council’s most recent figures have fallen into arrears of more than three months, many have been carrying the debt for significantly longer, with the average time in arrears now standing at 50 weeks.

The council said that it made every effort to enter into agreements with tenants to pay off their arrears, but some 40 per cent of those in long-term arrears have either broken their agreements or “are not willing to co-operate”, the council said.

Tenants are being “encouraged” to avail of the Household Budget Scheme, which allows tenants who receive social welfare payments to pay off a regular amount of their rent either by direct deduction from their payments or by direct debit from their bank accounts.

However, the council said it has made a recommendation to Government that rents due to local authorities should be automatically deducted directly from social welfare payments.

The council also wants the Department of Social Protection to prioritise rent payments to local authorities over the payment of utility bills and increase the maximum deduction for a rent payment from 25 per cent to 30 per cent of a social welfare payment.

The 2009 Housing Act gives local authorities the power to force new tenants to sign up to a mandatory deduction system, but the council said it is still waiting for the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government to sign a commencement order to allow this power to be enforced.

The council said it realises that many of its tenants are in a vulnerable position and it makes every effort to ensure that they are treated with courtesy and that their situation is handled with “due sensitivity”.