Happy New Year - now here's your first bill from Irish Water
MILLIONS of households are set to be hit with water bills averaging €70 in the first week of January, just as they struggle with the cost of Christmas.
The bills will cover three months of the year, as part of the new charging regime.
Letters are to be sent out to 2.24 million households from Irish Water in the next two weeks, outlining how the new water body plans to bill people for their water and sewage use.
Irish Water will be sending out what they call "application packs" during September, asking householders to confirm what type of water and waste water connections they have.
This is because it does not have an accurate record of which homes are connected to the mains water supply or to the main sewers.
Bills are then set to go out quarterly - with the first tranche of bills due to arrive through letter boxes straight after Christmas.
Households will be billed for water use from this October, with the bills to be paid in January.
A family with two adults and two children is likely to be charged €70 for water for the October to December period of this year, if the Commission for Energy Regulation gives final approval to the charging regime that has been proposed.
The quarterly bill will increase by approximately €25 for each additional adult using both water and the public waste water schemes.
This figure is based on an assessed charge for a house that does not have a meter. A household with a meter will not pay any more than the assessed charge. If water use is below the assessed charge, the bill will be lower.
Single-occupant households are likely to be hit with bills of no more than €44, according to a spokeswoman for Irish Water.
She acknowledged that the bills would come at the worst time for families, which will be recovering from the high cost of Christmas and will also face demands from Revenue to pay property tax.
But Irish Water said it was left with no choice about the timing of the first bills due to Government decisions imposed on it.
Households getting the Household Benefits Package from the Department of Social Protection will be eligible for €100 of an allowance towards water charges.
People who rent their homes will be responsible for paying the charge, something that experts expect will further fuel the ongoing rise in rents.
If people who rent do not return the forms from Irish Water, landlords will have the bill sent to them.
Households will have not have the option of paying monthly by direct debit initially, but a facility to enable people to pay monthly is set to be put in place soon, the utility said.
There will also be facilities put in place to allow households to pay off money on their water charges each week, if they decide to do this.
A spokeswoman for Irish Water said the information packs being sent out to all households in the State will ask people to reply in writing indicating if they get water from the public system, and if their home is part of the public sewage system.
The forms will be used to apply for the "free" water allowances of 30,000 litres per household and 21,000 litres per child.
Families will be asked to indicate on the form how many adults are in the household, and how many children they have and to list the personal public service (PPS) number for each children.
This information will then be cross-checked against the PPS records held by the Department of Social Protection that are used to pay child benefit.