COUNCIL tenants face the prospect of being hit with a property tax bill as cash-strapped local authorities are charged €11.5m from January.
Each city and county council is expected to pay €90 for each property it owns – and housing minister Jan O'Sullivan said this can be passed on to people living in the properties.
Councils own more than 128,000 houses and apartments countrywide which are leased to people on low incomes or reliant on social welfare payments.
The annual bill will run to €11.5m. Councils, many of which are heavily reliant on overdrafts to provide basic services, must pay this year's tax next January.
Housing Minister Jan O'Sullivan told the Irish Independent while no decision had been made as to whether the tax would be added to rental payments, it may be considered.
"There's no decision on that, it is a matter for the individual local authorities," she said. "In some cases, they will absorb it. In others, they will pass it on.
"There's a big discrepancy in the rents paid across the country, and we're trying to bring them closer together.
"A single person could be paying €15 a week in one part of the country, and €35 in another part. The ones at the lower end may pass it (the property tax) onto tenants."
Fingal County Council, which is introducing a 1pc rental hike to its 4,500 tenants from next month, said it had not decided if the tax would be passed on.
A decision would be made when the 2014 budget was being finalised as to how the €420,000 annual bill would be met.
"We are obliged to bring in a balanced budget but we have not finalised anything," a spokeswoman said.
"The legislation would suggest landlords shouldn't pass on the tax to the tenants. Our liability for the property tax doesn't kick in until next January so it might not be factored in until we finalise next year's budget.
"We are upping our rents by 1pc, but they haven't changed in nine years. What we're going to do with our local authority housing stock, and how (the property tax is) going to be funded, is a difficult question. It's not clear at the moment."
The council has approximately 4,500 houses, and average rent is about €55 per week. The rent increase would add about €3 to weekly bills.
The State's biggest landlord, Dublin City Council, has 26,875 properties and faces a bill of €2.4m.
A spokesman said the council was liable for the charge.