Traveller audit shows €35,000 in unpaid rent

Council threatens eviction and legal action against debtors

An internal audit into payment of rent for Traveller accommodation found that Roscommon County Council was owed almost €35,000 in unpaid rent, prompting legal action and potential evictions.

  The 2015 report, approved by council Chief Executive Eugene Cummins in December last, was released under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI).

  It noted that travellers were facilitated at halting sites in a number of areas in the county, along with in standard local authority housing.

  The tenants had numerous payment methods available to them, such as bill pay, standing order and payment at a council cash facility. They could also avail of a collection service by the Traveller accommodation caretaker, who called on a weekly basis. There was an issue with non-payment in some cases, however.  

  In relation to rent arrears, the audit found: “There were 43 Traveller accommodation rent accounts identified by housing at October 1, 2015.

  “It is not possible to identify these accounts from other accounts…, so the list that is reviewed in this report, is that as provided by the housing section.

  “The balance outstanding at October 1, 2015, is €34,814.08, and this includes €7,055.40 relating to the October accrual. The net balance outstanding, excluding the October accrual, is €27,758.68.”

  The report noted that the top ten customers in arrears accounted for 81 per cent of the total balance outstanding, with the largest tenant balance accounting for 19 per cent individually.

  Legal action and evictions were due to take place, the audit found.

  It said: “Housing have identified tenancies that they intend to pursue legally.

  “The second largest arrears case had been served with a ‘notice to quit’, but legal proceedings have had to be delayed due to the introduction of new legislation, the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014.

  “They are currently awaiting direction on how to proceed under the new legislation and it is essential that this is done as soon as possible to address the arrears.”

  Before releasing the document under FoI, the council initially redacted the section about rent arrears, saying that it was “highly sensitive” material.

  The council said: “Its release would have a significant adverse impact on Roscommon County Council’s performance of this function (management of rent arrears), resulting in considerable harm.”

  However, after an appeal against this judgement, the council varied their decision and removed these redactions.