Laois councillors 'shocked' that rental deposits requested from council tenants
Laois council tenants may have lost their place on the housing list over rental deposits being demanded by a voluntary housing agency that they cannot afford, a county councillor has claimed.
Respond! provides homes to people on the waiting list of Laois and other councils. It is referred to as an approved housing body.
Cllr Willie Aird tabled a motion to the March meeting asking why the association can take people off the council housing list and then request deposits from them.
“I couldn’t get over it. Two people told me they were asked for deposits of €650 or €700. These people were rehoused and taken off the housing list and then asked for a deposit. One of them is on disability allowance. We’re here pushing for approved housing bodies. They were devastated.
“They can’t get a deposit from Laois County Council any more, that was taken away. The only place they have to go now is the community welfare officer,” he said.
Cllr Aird wanted to know if the council's management agreed with the practice.
“People on our list are being subjected to being asked to pay money that they do not have. I ask my colleagues to support that this is not going to happen. Remember, we’re funding all these projects. Any land for them we paid for it. There’s nobody out there getting council housing that has that type of money. They are being given a house, Laois County Council has bought these houses,” Cllr Aird said.
Housing Officer Michael Rainey confirmed the policy by Respond!. The agency had not replied to the council motion ahead of the meeting on March 25.
“It’s disappointing that Respond did not have a response, we will have to wait for that. It’s quite a common practice for approved housing bodies and even some local authorities to ask for deposits. Some are called rent advances, some are refunded after the first year. It is not the practice in Laois County Council,” he said.
Mr Rainey added that the council has no control over the tenancy.
“Our role is to provide the capital funding and nominate a tenant. The management of the property, we’ve no say in that. The direct relationship is between the agency and the tenant,” he said.
He told councillors he would send them Respond!’s reply when it arrived.
The housing officer said other bodies like Respond! are also looking for deposits.
“It is an established practice. But I’ve never heard of anybody not getting a house because of their inability to pay,” he said.
Cllr Aird said it was not clear if house offers were lost due to deposits.
“We don’t know if people went off the list, because if you don’t come up with the money you don’t get the house,” he said.
He said that Respond! uses the money.
“It goes into the refurbishment of their houses. We have waiting lists for housing repairs because the money is swallowed up in other areas,” he said.
Cllr John Joe Fennelly seconded Cllr Aird’s motion.
“I was shocked. We’ve a Respond! development in Abbeyleix. This was never heard of before. Is this a new policy? These people are coming off Laois council housing lists. That is the only way you can to into a Respond! house,” he said.
Cllr Padraig Fleming asked if the policy is “the thin end of the wedge”.
The Cathaoirleach Cllr John King wants to stop the deposit policy. Also in support were Cllrs Caroline Dwane Stanley, Noel Tuohy and Brendan Phelan.
“What planet are these people living on. €500 is a lot of money for people out there, this is ludicrous,” Cllr Tuohy said.
Cllr Phelan noted that tenants can never buy their home rented from an approved housing body.
“At least with Laois County Council they have the option to buy it,” he said.
Respond! says on its website that it believes in providing housing for social investment rather than financial profit.
“We provide housing for some of the most vulnerable groups in society including those who have lived for long periods in hostels, temporary and insecure accommodation,” says the agency.