Criticism of plan to hold rental deposits until water bills paid

Minister James Reilly insists measures will have ‘minimal impact on landlords’

Landlords may have misunderstood a new measure stating that a tenant's deposit can be retained until water charges for a rental property have been paid, Minister for Children James Reilly has said.

Proposals announced after Wednesday night’s Cabinet meeting state that to ensure liability for water bills remains with the tenant, landlords will be allowed withhold the deposit paid for rented accommodation until the balance has been cleared.

Landlords will be expected to do this until the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB) takes responsibility for deposit protection, at which point tenants will have to demonstrate their water bill has been settled in order to recoup their deposit.

The Residential Landlords Association was critical of the proposals and claimed deposits would have to be trebled for the measures to work.


The association's spokesman Fintan McNamara told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that the ideal situation would be for each tenant to have an account and deal directly with Irish Water to make their payments. He said there was no need to make the process so complicated.

Dr Reilly insisted the impact on landlords would be minimal and that he believed they were misunderstanding the situation.

“My understanding is very clear,” he told reporters in Dublin. “The deposit will not be used at any point to pay Irish Water. The point purely is that the deposit will not be returned unless they pay their water bill, that’s all. So the impact on the landlord is minimal.”

“I’m just saying that they may not have got full understanding of the situation. It is not intended that the deposit that was paid to the landlord be used to pay Irish Water at any point in time.”

Opposition parties criticised the proposal with Fianna Fail saying it was “heavy handed” and would “turn landlords into debt collectors for Irish Water”.

The party's environment spokesman Barry Cowen said the PRTB "simply does not have the resources to deal with the mess of a whole new raft of cases" and that he understood its staff numbers had been cut from 65 to 30 since the Government took up office.

“It will lead to chaos, hiked up charges, bigger rental deposits and worsening of the relationship between tenants and landlords at a time when the sector is growing rapidly,” he said.

Sinn Féin said the measures would further worsen the housing crisis as the withholding of deposits was already a major issue.

"Tenants who cannot access their deposits, on moving, experience severe hardship finding alternative accommodation as well as deprivation due to the loss of crucial funds," the party's housing spokesman Dessie Ellis said. "Withholding deposits has led to some people going homeless and needing emergency accommodation."

Mr Ellis said the response of the Residential Landlords Association to the development was "extremely disappointing" but he understand they have no desire to act as charge collectors for Irish Water.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times