Eoghan Dalton Reports
Waterford City & County Council (WCCC) wants its tenants who have fallen into arrears to get in touch so a payment plan can be made for tenancies. Arrears from 211 tenants’ balances amounted to €900,000 according to a recently released audit of the Council for 2017. Each tenant was in arrears of over €1,000, while each had a household income of over €500 per week.
The audit’s author said a “significant portion” of these were not in payment plans. Gross arrears came to over €4.3 million. It’s understood a number of tenants have not informed WCCC of any increases in their income.
The Council’s Director of Housing, Ivan Grimes told Councillors at the January plenary meeting that it is the “responsibility of the tenant to inform us of any change to household income and size when they occur”.
Otherwise, tenants face having their increased income backdated by the Council. WCCC started rent assessments two years ago to discover if tenants not been informing them of improvements in their income.
These information caught Cllr John Cummins (FG) by surprise: “Surely, it’s not a case that somebody who comes in at a rate in 2015 is at the same rate regardless of the increases or decreases in their income over a period of time.”
The audit for 2017 also showed that the Council failed to collect on 23 per cent of rent owed to it by tenants in 2017.Tenants pay a minimum of between €16 and €18 per week, while 390 households did not return their income details to WCCC.Cllr Cummins noted that the auditor had described this level of collection as being at “the lower range of the scale” when compared with other local authorities.
Mr Grimes told him that the Council has taken a number of actions to deal with the issue. Among these were pursuing payment plans with households that are in arrears “quite aggressively”.
“In addition we have taken a policy,” he said, “where if you’re in arrears and not in a payment plan, we will not provide any housing services. There will be no maintenance provided, if the boiler breaks. We’re not going to fix it.
“Finally, we’ve commenced enforcement against a number of the higher earner tenants with significant arrears, with a view to ultimately seeking their eviction in the courts. You will appreciate it’s very expensive and time consuming, so we’ve been strategic in the ones we’ve selected to commence that process.”
See News Section of this week’s Munster Express for more on this story
Eoghan Dalton Reports