THE government is to delay the introduction of measures aimed at forcing landlords to take unpaid water bills from tenants' deposits, the Herald has learned.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly has postponed the plans until after the completion of a public consultation with landlord representatives.
However, coalition sources were adamant last night that there will be "no rowing back" on the measures despite a backlash from landlords.
The minister sparked controversy a fortnight ago after he revealed the government's new water package would force landlords to effectively operate as debt collectors on behalf of Irish Water.
Tens of thousands of property owners will be required to withhold portions of deposits belonging to tenants who do not pay their water bills.
And landlords will be inhibited from taking on new tenants while an outstanding water bill remains attached to their property.
But it has emerged that the legislation underpinning the new water package, due to be brought in front of the Oireachtas tomorrow, does not include measures relating to landlords.
It is understood that separate legislation dealing with landlords' requirements will be introduced in the New Year. A source said last night that "extra enforcement measures" are required given that the government has rowed back on plans to cut off water supply for those who do not pay.
Meanwhile, Mr Kelly will now embark on a consultation period with property owners about the specific requirement to withhold deposits, his spokesman said.
Landlord representative groups are also due to meet with Irish Water officials in the coming days.
Representative bodies last night insisted that while they welcomed the consultation period, they are not willing to accept the specific proposals.
The Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA) said it is concerned that the move being planned will set a worrying precedent of landlords collecting bills on behalf of semi-state companies.
"If a precedent is set with water, landlords could end up being responsible for tenants who default on other utility charges," said IPOA chairman Stephen Faughnan.
"Along with the issue of retrospective liability for existing tenants, this flawed proposal is totally unworkable, impractical, and completely against the concept of conservation," he added.