Paul Murphy TD answers questions on boycott of the Irish Water

Original article Paul Murphy

Based on the responses to the last post I put up about the water charges, I want to try to answer some of the most common questions and fears that are out there about the boycott. In all of this, we have to remember that the government and Irish Water want us to be scared. They particularly want those who aren’t connected to anti-water charges groups on social media to be scared. So we need to have the accurate and true information and spread that as far as possible. That is what will give people confidence.

1. Was there legislation passed (in the last days according to some stories) to allow An Post or some other body to take water charges from your wages / social welfare / pension?

This is an example of a little bit of truth creating a lot of confusion. Last July, the Civil Debt Procedures Act 2015 was passed. We campaigned and voted against it. However, it’s a lot more bark than bite though when it comes to breaking the boycott and we shouldn’t scare ourselves over it

Under the new law, the authorities are not able to simply take people’s water charges off them. What has to happen is this – whenever someone owes €500 or more (which won’t be until the end of 2017), Irish Water could start the process of applying for an attachment order. In order to do so, they would have to take two court cases against each individual. Each person’s case must be individually heard and their finances assessed before any attachment. It would likely be the middle of 2018 before even person could have their water charges taken from them. We shouldn’t be scared of this for two key reasons.

Firstly, because if we stick together we can have the water charges beaten before the end of 2017, so before this comes into play.

Secondly, because even if we get to the end of 2017 and the water charges are still in place, this is not a workable mechanism to force people to pay if the water charges keep up. The court services have themselves admitted that the courts would be completely clogged as a result and would not be able to cope.
So this is no reason to be scared. Incidentally, An Post doesn’t come into it at all – I’m not sure where that info came from.

2. Do you have to pay the water charges before you sell your home?

No. The government said it would introduce legislation to make people pay the water charges before selling their home, but it hasn’t done so yet. Some solicitors tell people that they have to – if yours does, ask them to double-check. While legally people have to have paid their property tax to sell their home, they don’t have to have paid their water charges. I know this from personal experience as well as analysing the legislation!

3. What about tenants – can landlords force you to pay?

The Irish Water bill is a bill for you the occupier and tenant, not the owner. Irish Water can request your name from the landlord, and if they don’t give it, they can send the bill to the landlord. But if your landlord just sends them your name, then Irish Water will write to you and from then on you’re in a similar position to everybody else. Simply refuse to pay, they can’t charge the landlord for it, once Irish Water knows you are the occupier.

Last year, the government changed the law so that all new tenancy agreements includes an implied contract to pay water charges. So if you have a new lease, in theory, part of that lease is a commitment to pay the water charges. But unless the landlord is a massive Fine Gael supporter, they have no reason to enforce that. As long as Irish Water knows that you live there, you not paying has no negative consequences for the landlord. Just explain that to them, if they come hassling you.