Housing Action Now, a collection of community activists, housing activists and researchers, along with Communities against Water Charges, an umbrella group of communities opposed to the water charges, are united in their opposition to repeated attacks on tenants from Irish Water and the government in relation to the implementation of water charges._____________________________________________________
Landlords are being asked to provide the names of their tenants to Irish Water. In private rented accommodation and in social housing, the council can pass on the name of the occupant to Irish Water, but under data protection laws it is illegal to pass on an occupant’s PPSN. If a name is passed on, the bills will be addressed to the occupant and henceforth are the sole responsibility of the occupant. A landlord has no requirement to be involved in this process once the occupant’s name has been passed on, and it is the occupant’s choice whether or not they pay the water charge.
Furthermore, it has been suggested that the government will bring in draft legislation referring to how the water charges can be enforced in the private-rental sector and the social housing sector. At this stage, it is unclear what legislation changes will be brought forth, but a point that has been raised repeatedly since November is that legislation may be put in place that allows landlords to deduct water bills from a tenant’s deposit.
This may be legally possible, based on the ability to use deposits to pay outstanding bills, but this is certainly not the normal basis of deposit retention. If such measures were to be brought through, they could be legally challenged by the tenant.
Irish Water and the government want to sow fear amongst those opposed to water charges, to divide and conquer the social movement that is forestalling their regressive agenda. To do this they are taking steps to use their powers to target tenants. The water charges effect households, and Irish Water and the government are seeking to target the households who have the most to lose and the fewest alternatives. Tenants, be they in social housing or in private-rented accommodation, fall into this category. They are an easy target, a low-hanging fruit, a sector in society that can be bullied into consent due to their precarious situation.
Communities against Water Charges, Housing Action Now and other housing groups will counteract this by:
1) Informing tenants of their rights.
2) Repairing tenants to undertake legal challenges against any attempts to bully them.
3) Calling on housing groups and anti-water charge groups to stand together to defend tenants from any further threats.
Housing Action Now and Communities against Water Charges will jointly produce relevant material in the coming weeks on how the water charges relate to, and effect, households.