The current emergency ban on rent increases and evictions will only be extended for a few weeks and more than likely not beyond August, it has emerged.
The Government plans to introduce new legislation with a suite of measures to protect renters - but plans by Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien to extend the ban implemented as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic until October have been blocked by the Attorney General, Paul Gallagher.
O'Brien has been at odds with Gallagher in recent days, with the attorney general arguing that a lengthy extension infringes on constitutional property rights. It is now likely O'Brien will only secure an extension of the ban for up to six weeks and possibly shorter. The main purpose of the short extension will be to allow the Fianna Fail minister time to bring in new legislation aimed at strengthening protections for renters.
Measures under the new law will likely include extending notice periods and permanently increasing the warning notices for rent arrears from 14 days to 28 days. There will also be an enhanced role for the Residential Tenancies Board in dealing with non-payment disputes.
The practical impact of such measures would mean that any evictions would not be likely to happen until towards the end of the year, according to a government source.
An announcement is likely to be made early this week as the Government separately unveils the July Stimulus Package which will include a considerable increase in the €10,000 cap on restart grants for SMEs and make them more widely available to businesses which have been affected by the Covid-19 lockdown.
An enhanced business restart grant package will be unveiled with the overarching aim of making more money available to businesses and making it easier for them to access grants. The restart grant is the equivalent to the rates bill of a business in 2019, with a minimum payment of €2,000 and a maximum payment of €10,000.
This cap will be lifted, with some suggestions in Government that it could be doubled to €20,000 - although no final decision has been made.
Administered by local authorities, the grant is currently only available to businesses that suffered a projected 25pc loss in revenue from April 1 to June 30. A Government source suggested widening access could mean businesses that remained partially open during the pandemic could avail of it. "The coffee shop that went to takeaway-only might not have qualified, maybe now they will," the source said.
The temporary wage subsidy scheme, where the State gives financial aid to businesses to pay a portion of their employees' wages, will be extended into next year. It will likely be expanded to include seasonal workers and newly hired employees. However, the Government will also move to gradually reduce the percentage paid to businesses over time.
Also, the pandemic unemployment payment will be extended into the new year but will be tapered down with renewed focus on retraining and upskilling to help people get back to work. New public sector apprenticeships are likely to form part of the package. A three-month waiver on commercial rents announced in May, which cost the exchequer €250m, is likely to be extended into the autumn.
The multi-billion euro stimulus package is not now expected to include the VAT-rate cut for tourism and hospitality for which lobby groups had argued. The Government believes such a move would not necessarily see a discount passed on to the consumer, while there has also been concern expressed about eventually reversing the measure. A previous "temporary" VAT cut was left in place for seven years, partly due to heavy lobbying from the sector.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheal Martin was in Brussels yesterday attending a marathon European Council summit where EU leaders were attempting to agree on a €750bn Covid-19 recovery fund. Martin said the package needed to be "something dramatic and something impactful" amid divisions over its overall size, the ratio between grants and loans, and what roles EU members would have in the allocation of funding to national governments.
Attending his first summit, Martin said conversations with his counterparts had revealed "a real caution and nervousness around the reopening that's going on in various countries, the degree to which the virus is simply not going away, and then the idea that we are going to have to live with Covid-19 for the foreseeable future and what impact would that have on the European economy in 12 months' time". He said there was a "necessity to get a deal through now".
Draft proposals included a digital tax to be implemented from 2023 - a proposal that will spark alarm in Dublin which is resistant to such a levy on a solely EU basis.