Council fight "ongoing battle" as rent arrears rise drastically

Rent arrears owed to the council have risen by €1.5 million in two years.

Barry Landy

Reporter:

Barry Landy

Email:

barry.landy@dundalkdemocrat.ie

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Louth County Council say they are facing an “ongoing battle” in trying to reduce the rent arrears currently owed to the local authority – with current arrears sitting at just over €5.1 million.

Speaking at Tuesday’s Dundalk Municipal District meeting, Senior Executive Officer Aoife Lawler admitted the council were facing difficulties in getting tenants to commit to payment plans, but did confirm the biggest debtors were now in plans to pay off rent arrears.

“It’s very hard to get people into a payment plan,” she said at the meeting, held at Dundalk Town Hall. “Some people are in big arrears, some people are in small arrears. We have targeted the 50 tenants in the biggest arrears and they are now in a payment plan.”

She confirmed one tenant, who failed to engage with the council despite 80 attempts to do so, has been evicted. That person had already moved out of the council house and found alternative accommodation – meaning no one was made homeless in this instance.

“It’s not a scenario we want to happen, but if people don’t engage, it’s something we have to do,” she added.

“We’re working to work with people, we don’t want people in arrears. We weren’t getting anywhere.” When asked whether the amount owed by the person in this instance was significant, Lawlor replied, “We don’t evict people unless it’s significant.”

The Senior Executive Officer cited mis-information given to the council by tenants as a particular problem.

Figures show that as of January 31st, Louth CoCo are currently owed €5,163,932 in rent arrears by a total of 1,860 accounts. The majority of accounts, 1,443, are in arrears greater than 12 weeks.

That makes up over €4,975,311 of the overall total.

Rising rent arrears are a growing problem for the local authority. The overall total has risen from €3.6 million owed at the end of January two years ago compared to €5.1 million owed now.

Sinn Féin councillor Anne Campbell raised the issue of rent arrears, claiming it impacted on those tenants who needed improvement work undertaken on their properties.

“It’s a flat no when you ask about wriggle room,” she said when speaking on the issue. “People are asking for houses to be fixed, but with so many people in arrears, nothing is getting done.

“There are a lot of knock-ons with rent arrears.”