A county councillor has called for a security deposit to be introduced for local authority tenants after he saw the €800,000 Westmeath County Council spent on repairs to its housing stock in 2010.
Cllr Kevin “Boxer” Moran told the annual budget meeting in Mullingar on Monday (December 20 ) he believed “that up to 15 per cent of local authority tenants abuse the system”, and suggested a once off €100 payment or a month’s rent in advance to cover this amount.
“We need to penalise those. We definitely won’t tolerate tenant abuse,” he said.
County manager, Danny McLoughlin, felt this suggestion had some merit and should be brought before the housing policy committee for discussion, but that it was “not the message we want give the public that we had to spend €800,000 because of tenant abuse”.
“What was acceptable [in terms of insulation and fittings] in the 60s is not acceptable now, and a certain amount of the expenditure was spent in getting the properties up to standard,” he said.
Over the last two years the county council has maintained a small unit of staff to carry out pre-tenancy repairs, and in 2010 they fixed up 60 houses, which included “significant efficiency measures”.
“This programme is of critical importance in the context of reducing void times, maintaining housing stock and protecting State investment,” said Mr McLoughlin.
However, he did concede that the expenditure figure of €800,000 was “unsustainable without a major increase in internal capital receipts” from either tenant purchases or central government.
“The issue will be kept under review and a report prepared for the council before the end of March,” he added.
A number of other councillors then took their turn to grumble about the outlined cuts in housing and local improvement grants, public lighting, and potholes, but it all seemed a little too area specific and none of them had any suggestions as to where the money to manage this would come from.