Almost a third of council tenants are in arrears
Almost two thirds of Dundalk Town Council's tenants are in arrears, with the local authority owed over half a million euro in back rent - a situation described as 'frightening' by one veteran councillor.
Housing officer Mr Dave Storey, pictured, told councillors at their monthly meeting that around 1,000 of the council's 1,500 are in rent arrears.
He explained that while the local authority does enter payment agreements with people, it can take quite some time to clear arrears. Some people don't want to 'go down that route', he added and the council will have to take legal action against them.
On learning the extent of the problem, Cllr Eamonn O'Boyle said it was 'a frightening situation'.
County Manager Ms Joan Martin said there were arrears across all the local authority's income sources - rents, development contributions, commercial rates and water charges.
She revealed that the council was looking at a policy to consolidate their collection system as they were no different from any other business, with 700 people employed who needed to be paid and whose wages go into the local economy as well as services to deliver.
While she accepted that many people fall within the 'can't pay' category, there was also an element of 'won't pay', and she said the council would be pursuing this group vigorously.
They would, however, continue to engage sympathically with anyone in difficulty, whether it's a businessman or a tenant but they had to feel that people were being fair and honest with them. Failure to collect what is owing to the council would have consequences for their budget.