Tuesday 21 May 2019

Irish Water deadline 'not a line in the sand' - Kelly

Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Environment Minister Alan Kelly has claimed tonight’s deadline for registering with Irish Water is ‘not a line in the sand’.

Approximately 1.1 million households have registered with the utility, with the minister believing many more citizens will sign up following a recent spike.

However he confirmed there will be no penalty for customers who do not register tonight.

“It is an administrative date for Irish Water, what it means for customers out there if you register today Irish Water will give you the correct bill,” he said.

The deadline to register with Irish Water is midnight tonight.

He encouraged everyone to sign up to get the right allowances and bills as households who do not complete an application will receive a default bill for €260 per year, per dwelling.

Customers who do not pay the water charges will be penalised after 15 months, Elizabeth Arnett, head of communications at Irish Water, also confirmed.

“In terms of non-payment, there are penalties... additional charges will be applied to the bill,” Ms Arnett toldRTE’s Sean O’Rourke.

“In relation to penalties for not confirming your details, there are no penalties in relation to that.”

“There is time for people to register their details before the first bill.”

“You may need to have a lower charge and we can’t decide that unless your details are confirmed with us.”

“If you haven’t confirmed your details with us, please do so, we’ll endeavour to ensure that’s reflected in your first bill.”

“If over a period of four bills you haven’t entered into a payment plan with us, additional charges will apply to the bill.”

Irish Water has said it would continue to accept the return of forms after tonight’s deadline - but that homes run the risk of not being charged accurately when the first bills arrive in April.

Some 1.1m households have registered to date, Ms Arnett said. Almost 30,000 households registered at the weekend.

Ms Arnett did not rule out the possibility of using a debt collection agency to collect money which householders have failed to pay, she said.

“If you look at the other utilities, that is the absolute last resort and it’s not something other utilities rush to do.”

“We’ll be working with customers to ensure that we get full compliance.”

“We’ll have to look at that [debt collection agency]. There will be four bills we’ll have to issue before considering putting additional charges onto the bill.”

“We will persure the debt and if that involves a debt collection agency then so be it.”

However, she added: “That’s 15 months away... We have to wait and see what the compliance level is before we put a plan in place.

“We will be pursuing the debt as any normal utility would.”

For any householder who has lost their Irish Water pack, householders can download the form online, or call 1890 448 448.

Ms Arnett said Irish Water has received a “disproportionately lower” response from those in rented accommodation, Ms Arnett said.

Irish Water will investigate with landlords how to bill rented properties, she said.

“There’s a disproportionately lower response from [the renting] sector. We’ll talk to landlords about who’s in the property and who the bill should be addressed to?”

“We will be addressing that in the next number of weeks”

Some 35,000 Irish Water packs were returned unopened or with protest messages on them.

Some 15,000 had “messages of varying degrees”, Ms Arnett said, while 20,000 were unopened.

“The charge itself, when you take the conservation grant into account, will amount to just over €3 or just over €1 a week,” Ms Arnett said.

“We will be issuing bills from the start of April in relation to that.”

“It is important for those who do pay that the same rules apply to everybody. We’ve a good response rate to date.”

Households who do not complete an application will not be entitled to the €100 water conservation grant which you may apply for if you have registered your primary residence with Irish Water.

Further details on when applications can be made to the Department of Social Protection will be announced later in the year.

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