By Emma Quinn
Two bills that affect water charges have been rammed through the Dail, the Civil Debts (Procedures) Bill 2015 and the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014. Both are measly attempts to intimidate non payers but neither come close to being able to break the boycott.
These bully boy tactics along with the series of threats against householders from Minister Alan Kelly and the refusal of Irish Water to release the levels of payment of the water charges only expose the pressure that Fine Gael and Labour are feeling from the anti-water charges movement.
Revenue is not involved
The fact is this legislation is nowhere near as powerful of what was bragged about by the mainstream media who at the behest of the government stoked up fears of a robbery of the charges directly from peoples income and social welfare in similar style to the property tax. The opposite is the case. Revenue is still not involved and these new measures only reinstate the importance of building a mass campaign of non-payment.
It’s unfortunate that hysteria and scaremongering on the legislation has been drummed up not only by the government and their media henchmen but by certain layers inside the anti-water charges movement itself. There have been numerous posts by high profile figures insinuating that attachment orders now mean the charges can be directly deducted from income, social welfare, pensions etc not only is that not factual but it is potentially very damaging.
Here are the facts of what the new legislation means:
1. The new bill does NOT allow water charges to be taken from social welfare, wages or pensions without having TWO court cases first.
2. The first of those court cases CANNOT start until you owe a minimum of €500 – the timeframe for this will likely be the end of 2017 at the earliest.
3. The General Election will have to take place before April 2016, a long before anyone can be brought to court. If we can build and maintain a mass boycott in the run up to the election the next government will be under huge pressure to abolish water charges.
4. They can’t take us all to court! Even if we haven’t won by 2017 – the reality is they can only bring a handful of non-payers to court. Like the 1990s when there were hundreds of cases, it will not break non-payment and may actually became a focal point for protest and political pressure against the government. The courts have already implied they wouldn’t be capable of functioning if hundreds of thousands of non- payers were brought to argue their cases which is required by the legislation.
Can my landlords deduct the water charges from tenants?
Water charges will be treated as any other utility bill. If a bill is in your name, it cannot be taken from your deposit. If a bill is in the landlord’s name and there are arrears, they can deduct from your deposit. If the landlord has handed over your name, or if you have registered, the bill will be in your name, therefore they will not be able to deduct it from your deposit.
Will the water charges be added to my rent of council tenant or Housing Association (e.g. Tuath, Cluid, NABCO) tenant?
No. There is no provision in the legislation to add the water charges to people’s rents by local authorities or housing associations.
Stay with the boycott!
You should not be bullied. If you don’t have a new tenancy agreement, and it isn’t currently written into your tenancy agreement, you have no obligation to your landlord to pay water charges. If it is in your tenancy agreement, explicitly or because it is a new agreement, that doesn’t mean that your landlord will try to enforce that section of your lease. Your landlord may not be aware whether you are paying your water charges or not. Even if your landlord is aware that you are not paying, there are no negative consequences for them if they don’t make you pay.