Landlords and Irish Water ~ Tenants’ Details

Property owners who have tenants have been quite concerned about their potential exposure to Irish Water for arears of water charges, effectively a utility bill incurred by their tenants.   Some clarity has been brought to this area through amendments to the Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 arising from the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015. Of particular significance is Section 47 of the 2015 Act which inserts a new Section 23A into the Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013. This section was commenced by the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 (Commencement) (No. 2) Order 2015 which was promulgated by the Minister for the Environment on 30th September, 2015 appointing 1st October 2015 as the date upon which the provision enters into legal force and effect.   The significance of this is that the new Section 23A(4) provides that where a non-occupying property owner (a landlord) has not provided the tenants’ details to Irish Water within twenty days of the commencement of Section 23A or twenty days of the commencement of the tenancy if later, then the property owner shall be responsible for the charges levied by Irish Water until the property owner complies with their obligation.   Consequently and somewhat urgently given how little fanfare accompanied the bringing into force of this provision, in respect of pre-existing tenancies, property owners have twenty days from 1st October, 2015 to provide tenants’ details to Irish Water. If a property owner is any doubt as to whether or not their tenants are registered then they should write to Irish Water and advise them of the tenants’ details. Irish Water’s address according to its website is P.O. Box 860, South City Delivery Office, Cork City.   The new provision requires Irish Water to be notified as to:   “(i)       the date of commencement of any agreement for the occupation of the dwelling, and   (ii)        the name of each person with whom the owner has such an agreement for the occupation of the dwelling”.   In respect of new tenancies arising after 1st October, 2015, Irish Water must be notified within twenty days of the change of occupier of the dwelling concerned.   Section 23A(5)(a) also provides that unless the letting/tenancy agreement provides to the contrary every agreement for the occupation of a dwelling entered into after 1st October, 2015 shall be “deemed to include a provision that the occupier shall pay to Irish Water any charge.. in respect of the dwelling for the period from the date on which the agreement commences until the date on which the occupier vacates the dwelling.”   While this provisions brings welcome clarity as to which party, the landlord or the tenant, is responsible for paying the water charges, it does not affect the landlords obligation to notify Irish Water of the tenants’ details.   This information is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice. Professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication. No liability is accepted by Hammond Good, Solicitors for any action taken in reliance on the information contained therein. Any and all information is subject to change. For further information on the subject, please contact the author, Richard Hammond, at...

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Parental Leave

The Parental Leave Act, 1998 as amended by the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act, 2006 allows parents to take leave from their employment to take care of their children. The 2006 legislation extended the time period in respect of which leave could be taken from the previous position of until the child’s fifth birthday to the new extended position of until the child’s eighth birthday. If a child is adopted between the age of six years of age and eight years of age the leave in respect of that child may be extended to two years from the date of the Adoption Order. If the child is suffering from a disability then the leave can be taken at any time up to the child reaching sixteen years of age. The legislation also provides for an extension of time for the leave to be taken where the parent suffers from an illness or was unable for specified reasons to take the leave in the period provided.   How can Parental Leave be taken? It can be taken as a continuous period of fourteen weeks per child. If there is more than one child then it is limited to fourteen weeks in a twelve month period except in the case of multiple births. The period of leave can be longer if the employer agrees. The leave can also be taken as two separate periods of a minimum of six weeks but there must be a gap of ten weeks between the two periods, unless a shorter amount of time is agreed with the employer. Both parents have a separate entitlement to parental leave.   Annual Leave & Public Holidays During the time the employee is on parental leave they are deemed to be working and are entitled to build up annual leave and public holiday entitlements. There is however no entitlement to pay from your employer while on parental leave nor is there any entitlement to any social welfare benefit or assistance.   Entitlement to Parental Leave The employee must be working for the employer for one year before they can take parental leave. If the child is near the age threshold and the employee has been working for the employer for three months but less than a year, the employee may be entitled to take parental leave on a pro-rata basis of one week for every month worked for that employer. The leave can only be used to look after the child concerned and cannot be used for another purpose. Employers must keep records of all parental leave taken by employees for a period of eight years. Failure to do so could result in the employer being imposed with fines of up to €2,000.   Applying for Parental Leave The employee must give written notice to the employer at least six weeks before the leave is due to commence and sign a document confirming the details at least four weeks before the leave commences.   Future Changes to Parental Leave A Directive has recently been adopted by the European Council which will extend the period of parental leave to four months per child. The new provisions are due to be enacted by the member states of the European Union before March 2012. The Department of Justice has confirmed that Ireland are...

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Inspection of Domestic Wastewater Treatment Systems

The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 introduced a new registration and inspection regime for domestic waste water treatment systems which include septic tanks. The purpose of the legislation is to impose an obligation on owners of such treatment systems to ensure their systems are operating and maintained so as to make certain that they do not pollute the environment. The Act imposes an obligation on each owner of a treatment system to register their system and the Act allows inspections of the treatment systems to be carried out by authorised inspectors. This Act imposes on the “owner” of a premises connected to a domestic waste water treatment system an obligation to have details of their waste water treatment system entered in a register which is maintained by the water services department of each local authority. To register the owner of the premises must complete a form and pay the relevant registration charge. The water services authority will then enter the details in the register of domestic waste water treatment systems and will issue a Certificate of Registration to the owner. The Certificate of Registration should be kept in a safe place (with the title deeds if possible) as it may be required when the property is being sold. This certificate will be valid for five years, after which time the treatment system must be re-registered and a new certificate obtained. The registration charge is currently set at €50, but the Act provides that it may be reviewed from time to time by the Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government. If registration is completed prior to 28th September, 2012 the registration fee will be €5. All water treatment systems must be registered by 1st February 2013. The Act provides for inspections to be carried out on treatment systems and inspections are due to commence in 2013. Under the Act the owner of the premises is to be provided with 10 days notice of an inspection. If access to the treatment system is not granted to the inspector this may be deemed an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding €5,000. The Act does not impose an inspection charge on the owner of the premises The inspections will initially concentrate on areas where treatment systems are posing a higher risk of polluting the environment.. If an inspector finds that your system is working properly and being maintained correctly no action will need to be taken by you. If however an inspection of the treatment system deems it to be malfunctioning, an advisory note will issue from the local authority requiring you to take steps to improve your system. Registration of a treatment system can be made online at www.protectourwater.ie or by printing the form on the website, completing it and then submitting it to the Protect Our Water, P.O. Box 12204, Dublin 7. Forms are also available from the local authorities and libraries.  The following details will need to be completed on the form; the names and addresses of the owner(s) of the property and the address of the treatment system This information is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice. Professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of...

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Child Custody & Access Applications in the District Court

Irish law provides that the married parents of children shall be the joint custodians of their children. Where the parents of a child are not married to each other the unmarried mother has automatic custody and guardianship of the child. What is Custody? Custody is the physical day-to-day care and control of a child. Even where one parent has sole physical custody of a child, the other parent (if a guardian or joint custodian) is generally entitled to be consulted in relation to matters affecting the welfare of the child. Where parents are separated then practically speaking the child will usually reside with one parent and the other parent will enjoy rights of Access. What is Access? Access is the right of the child to see and enjoy the company of a parent. The Childcare Act 1997 extended Access rights to other relatives of the child. What are the Rights of an Unmarried Father? For an unmarried father to be appointed as a joint custodian he would have to apply to the court for an Order to be made to appoint him as joint custodian. Informal Access arrangements can be made between the parents. This will work where both parents are fair and reasonable. If however agreement cannot be reached between the parties, each party can engage their own solicitor to negotiate on their behalf to reach an agreement which both parents sign. While such an agreement is legally binding an application can also be made to court to have the agreement made an Order of Court for ease of enforcement by the parties.   If agreement cannot be reached the matter can be put before a District Court Judge to decide. Any disputes in relation to Custody and Access will be determined by the Court on the basis that the welfare of the child is the first and paramount consideration. Where the child is considered old enough to express a view on the matter the District Court Judge will request that the wishes of the child be assessed by a child psychologist and take this into consideration when making an Order for Custody and or Access. It is a child’s right to see both parents and Access by the non-custodial parent will only be denied if the court believes that it is not in the best interests of the child. The court can set out the time, place and duration of Access visits and can order supervised Access where another adult is present during visits if it considers it appropriate. It should be noted that an Access and Custody Order is never final and either party can return to the District Court to seek to have the Order amended, varied or discharged at any future date. This information is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice. Professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication. No liability is accepted by Hammond Good, Solicitors for any action taken in reliance on the information contained therein. Any and all information is subject to change. For further information on the subject, please contact the author, Joyce A. Good Hammond, at...

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Drink Driving Laws

New road traffic legislation which came into effect recently has amended the law in relation to a variety of road traffic offences. Particularly noteworthy is the overhaul of the law in relation to the prosecution of drink driving offences. Under the old regime any person charged with drink driving automatically received a summons to appear before the District Court. The Acts have amended the procedure and only drivers falling into certain categories will receive a summons to appear in court. The alcohol limit under the new regime has been reduced from 35 micrograms to 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. Where the breath alcohol level does not exceed 22 micrograms and the driver is not a “specified person” and has not had received a fine for drink-driving in the past three years, they will face a fine of €200 and three penalty points will be applied to their licence. A reading of a breath alcohol level between 22 micrograms but not exceeding 44 micrograms on a first offence will result in the driver facing a fine of €400 and a disqualification from driving for a period of six months. The definition of a “specified person” is set out in the new regime and includes among other categories a learner driver, a taxi or public service vehicle driver, a driver who is towing a trailer in excess of 750 kg and a driver who drives a vehicle in the course of their business. These categories of drivers are subject to a lower level of 9 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. If a driver in this category has an alcohol level in excess 9 micrograms of alcohol but not exceeding 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath they will face a fine of €200 and will be disqualified from driving for three months. There are a number of categories where a summons will automatically issue for the driver to appear before the District Court, they include: A driver who has a breathalyser reading in excess of 44 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. A driver who is a specified person and who has a breathalyser reading in excess of 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. A person who has not paid a fine in the specified time. As motorists will only be able to use the lower penalty regime once in a three year period. If they are caught in excess of the limit on a second or subsequent occasion they will receive a summons to appear in court. Second or subsequent offences may result in disqualification from driving for a period up to six years, substantial fines and or up to six months imprisonment. This depends on the level of alcohol recorded and the number of previous offences. Penalty points received will remain on your licence for three years. If twelve penalty points are accumulated in a three year period you will be disqualified from driving for six months. This information is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice. Professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication. No liability is accepted by Hammond Good, Solicitors for any...

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