The new handbook was issued to council tenants early in the new year
A special emergency meeting is to take place to address the ongoing controversy over a new handbook issued to tenants in council housing here.
The handbook, which sets out two pages of ‘tenant responsibilities’ has caused considerable concern among residents in local authority homes. At a meeting on Monday, Cllr Patrick McKee expressed frustration that members had not had an opportunity to debate and discuss the final document before it was issued.
He produced figures from a review carried out by the National Oversight and Audit Commission, which determined the income from housing accrued by Kilkenny County Council in 2014 was €6.9 million, while the amount spent on maintenance and improvement was €3.2 million.
“What I’m asking is — are we comfortable taking €7 million from local authority tenants, and reinvesting less than half of it back in, given the situation some tenants are in?” he asked.
In particular, the Fianna Fail councillor said he was concerned about tenant responsibilities relating to sanitary facilities, draught-proofing, and condensation/damp.
He received support from Cllr David Kennedy who said his fear was that tenants who could not afford to hire, for example, an electrical contractor would ultimately attempt to carry out works.
“They will go at these jobs themselves and it will end up costing more,” he said.
Another councillor, Pat Fitzpatrick, said he had been contacted by an 82-year-old man who had wanted to repair his windows. He said when the man rang the council, he was told to refer to his handbook.
Responding to queries, director of services Mary Mulholland said the handbook was supplementary to what tenants signed as part of their tenancy agreement.
“The tenant handbook is not a policy document — it is a guidance document to assist people,” she said.
“It is to clarify the tenancy agreement, not to be an addition.”
She said the previous handbook was ten years old, and things had changed in that time, such as methods of waste disposal and rent payment.
“I think there are more supports and information in it than anything else,” she said of the book.
Ms Mulholland said the council had dealt with more than 5,600 maintenance calls last year. She said the council should be trying to get to ‘a planned maintenance regime rather than a reactive one’, and added that if members wanted to review the tenancy agreement, it would then be a policy issue.
Cllr Andrew McGuinness thanked Ms Mulholland for her clarification, and, as chairman of the housing SPC, suggested an emergency meeting in response to concerns among the general public.
“I think that something like that would be very beneficial for everybody,” he said.
This was seconded by Cllr Pat Fitzpatrick. A date for the meeting is expected to be confirmed in the coming days.