Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien wanted new laws to force short-term lettings into the private rental market to come into force without a six-month grace period, The Irish Times has learned.
Cabinet papers show that Ministers clashed over a proposal to allow short-term lettings to continue operating for up to six months after a new registration system for Airbnb-style accommodation is introduced.
The legislation being brought forward by Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin following Cabinet approval this week is the centrepiece of efforts to force units out of short-term lettings and into the private rental market amid the ongoing housing crisis.
Under the draft laws approved by the Government this week, property owners can avail of a transition period of up to six months after the register is established, and continue offering the property as a short term let.
This is to allow people who have made reservations, and those who own reserved properties, make good on arrangements made for the coming months.
However, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien pushed back against the six month grace period, arguing that the pressing need of the housing crisis meant it should become immediately enforceable.
In observations on the new law submitted to Cabinet and seen by The Irish Times, Mr O’Brien said he was “anxious that the introduction of this legislation will achieve its objectives and there are also some concerns surrounding the intention to provide a six month transition period and the potential that this could delay the full impact of the new legislation.”
However, if they fail to get planning permission during this time, Government sources said they will immediately have to remove the property from the short term market, even if the six months has not elapsed.
Sources said this measure had offered some reassurance to Mr O’Brien. Officials from the Department of Housing are to continue engaging with Ms Martin’s officials on the issue, the Cabinet was told.
Fáilte Ireland has estimated that there are around 30,000 short term tourist lets in the state, with 20,000 full properties and around 7,000 rooms in private homes. It believes up to 12,000 properties will come back into the private rental market arising from the reforms.
Property owners advertising a home for up to 21 nights will have an obligation to register with Fáilte Ireland, and online letting platforms will have an obligation to ensure that people using their websites have a valid registration number provided by the tourism body
Platforms like Airbnb initially started by allowing people to offer their spare rooms for rent on a short-term basis, but rapidly grew incorporating full homes.
Critics say the platforms deprive the private rental market of housing as the income associated with short term lets is much more attractive than rents that can be yielded from longer-term tenancies.
Under the new Fáilte Ireland system, only homes which have the required planning permission will be able to advertise on these platforms.
Government sources indicated that the expectation is the draft bill can pass all stages in the Oireachtas and be signed into law before the end of March next year.