herald

Monday 23 October 2017

Irish Water demands tenant details from councils

IRISH Water has demanded the names and addresses of more than 100,000 tenants from local authorities and major landlords so they can issue water bills in the coming weeks.

The Herald has learned that the controversial utility company wrote to city and county councils in February, asking them to provide tenants’ names following the conclusion of a national registration campaign.

It also wrote to around 400 landlords who own 50 or more properties, seeking the information.

This was because Irish Water held a database of addresses – but did not receive registration details from the occupants of those properties, which included names and the number of people living in the home.

As the legal owners of the properties, councils and landlords could have been hit with default bills of €65 for the first three months of the year if their tenants refused to register. Local authorities own more than 125,000 properties, meaning they faced a bill of more than €8m.

There are another 300,000 private rental properties according the CSO, which could result in landlords being hit with bills totalling €20m. Irish Water sought the information after consulting with the Data Protection Commissioner.

Unacceptable

Irish Water said it could not provide details on the number of private landlords who had provided tenants’ details. But it said just “one or two” councils had yet to supply the data.

Opposition parties reacted with anger to the revelations. Fianna Fail TD Sean Fleming said: “It is unacceptable that Irish Water is extracting sensitive information from local authorities without the consent of either the individual concerned or elected representatives.”

The party proposes amending the Water Services Act 2013 to ensure that tenant information is not handed over without consent.

And Sinn Fein Westmeath county councillor Sorca Clarke started a petition calling on her local authority to retrieve the details of social housing residents it gave to Irish Water.

However, a spokeswoman for Irish Water said: “We’ve been engaging with all local authorities seeking tenants’ details. We’ve been through this with all local authorities, and with the Data Protection Commission in terms of the legal standing.”

The move was allowed under Section 26 of the 2013 Water Services Act, which obliges a “relevant person” – which includes local authorities – to provide information to the company.

The company said it had undertaken a registration campaign from last September which ended in February.

hnews@herald.ie

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