Utility companies and small businesses will be entitled to seek attachment orders against the wages and welfare payments of customers who owe them money under the Government’s sweeping new debt proposals.
The measures, which were agreed by Cabinet tonight, are aimed at ensuring nobody is sent to prison over the failure to settle a personal debt.
Instead, creditors will be given the option of seeking redress through the form of attachment orders against wages and welfare payments.
Courts will be given the powers to deduct outstanding sums where previously they would have handed down a prison sentence.
The measures could be availed by businesses and public utilities who are chasing customers over personal debt such as electricity and gas bills.
But it will not apply to secured debt, meaning banks will be prevented from using these measures as a means of pursuing customers in mortgage arrears.
The Government’s measures, which are being spearheaded by the departments of justice and environment, will also apply to householders who fail to pay their water charges.
Irish Water, along with other public utilities, will be allowed apply for attachments orders in cases where customers refuse to engage.
The Government insists a differentiation will be made between those who ‘can’t pay’ and those who ‘won’t pay’.
Those who can’t pay will be dealt with by Irish Water on a case-by-case basis and will be given a series of payment plan options. These could include householders paying their bills on a monthly basis.
But those who won’t pay, including anti-water charge protesters, face having their dole or wages deducted.
But sources say a safety net will be in place to ensure individuals are not allowed fall below a certain income if they have an attachment order applied.
The measures are particularly significant in the area of tenancy agreements.
Despite protests from landlord organisations, landlords will be required to act as debt collectors on behalf of Irish Water.
All new tenancy agreements will contain an obligation for the occupier to pay the bill.