I propose to take Questions Nos. 529 and 557 together.
The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009, as amended, provides the legislative basis for the Non Principal Private Residence (NPPR) Charge. The NPPR Charge, which has since been discontinued, applied in the years 2009 to 2013 to any residential property in which the owner did not reside as their normal place of residence.
A residential property that was not in use by an owner as his or her sole or main residence is liable for the Charge. This may not necessarily be a second home; a person may have vacated a property and have been living in rented accommodation elsewhere for work or other reasons, for example, and, in such a case, the property that the owner was no longer living in is liable for the Charge, even if it was the only residential property that person owned. It is a matter for an owner, whether resident in Ireland or elsewhere, to determine if he or she has a liability and, if so, to declare that liability and pay the Charge and any late payment fees applicable.
The self-assessed Charge is set at €200 per annum and liability for it falls, in the main, on owners of rental, holiday and vacant properties. Section 6 of the 2009 Act, as amended, provides that the owner of a liable property who fails to pay the charge, in addition to him or her being liable to pay the Charge, is liable to pay to the relevant local authority a €20 late payment fee in respect of each month or part of a month in which the Charge, any late payment fee, or any part of such Charge or fee, remains unpaid.
Part 12 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014 also deals with the collection of undischarged liabilities relating to the NPPR Charge. The Act provided for a period from 2 March 2014 to 31 August 2014 during which time no new late penalties were applied to existing liabilities. If payment was not made in full or if settlement terms were not agreed by the end of that period, an additional late payment fee of €120 per liability date applied on 1 September 2014. As the Charge applied in each of the years from 2009 to 2013, there were five liability dates - 31 July 2009 and 31 March for each of the years 2010 to 2013. In addition to this late payment fee to be applied per liability date, the entire NPPR liability is then increased by a factor of 50% and frozen.
Under the Act, it is a function of a local authority to collect NPPR charges and late payment fees due to it, and all charges and late payment fees imposed and payable to a local authority are under the care and management of the local authority concerned. In this regard, application of the legislation in particular circumstances is a matter for the relevant local authority.
A number of exemptions from the charge are set out in section 4 of the 2009 Act and section 4(6) provides for an exemption from the charge in a situation where a residential property is occupied rent-free as the sole or main residence of a relative of the owner and the sole or main residence of the owner is either on the same property or within two kilometres of it.
The NPPR Project Board, in conjunction with individual local authorities, undertook a media campaign in 2014 aimed at reminding non-compliant owners that additional late payment penalties applied after 31 August 2014. The extensive radio and print media campaign reminded non-compliant owners of their obligations to come forward to regularise their affairs and to take advantage of this once-off grace period. While it is a necessary principle of law that all citizens are required to be aware of relevant legal obligations and duties in respect of such charges, as is the case in other jurisdictions, it remains my view that reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that property owners have been aware of the Charge and liability dates.
Under section 77 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014, my Department issued guidance to local authorities concerning matters relating to arrears of the NPPR Charge and late payment fees to ensure that a consistent national approach is adopted. The guidelines, which are available at http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/LocalGovernment/Administration/FileDownLoad,37899,en.pdf, encourage local authorities to take a proactive approach to ensure that any outstanding NPPR liabilities are discharged in the most equitable, efficient and economically beneficial manner and include guidance in respect of dealing with hardship cases. It is expected, in the majority of cases, that local authorities will collect the full NPPR Charge liability from owners. In some cases, this may be by means of arrangement by installment. All non-compliant owners or owners with queries should log on to www.nppr.ie or, alternatively, contact their local authority to discuss any matters they wish to clarify and to make any outstanding payments.