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  • Rent, relief and the accidental landlord

    21 April 2017

    Andy Wood

    It might not come as too much of a surprise to learn that many of the growing population living in our island nation are afflicted by something of a housing crisis.

    For many, the idea of home ownership remains just that. Availability and property price rises mean that the roof over their heads is more likely to be rented from someone else rather than owned outright.

    The rental sector, therefore, fulfils a vital social role. In fact, one relatively recent estimate suggested that residential rental properties had become the fastest-growing real estate sector in the UK, overtaking mortgage-owned homes and worth more than £1 trillion.

    Only this month, the Treasury has sought to capitalise on the momentum within the rental industry by starting a four-year phased process which will conclude with landlords losing tax relief on mortgage interest payments.

    Anticipation of the move has already been held responsible for an increase in the number of rented homes owned by landlords operating as companies.

    Twenty per cent of properties are now owned in such a fashion, the highest proportion since records began in 2010.

    This notion of rapid cause and effect is quite tidy but, I suspect, doesn’t quite tell the whole story. In fact, I’m quite surprised that the volume of corporate landlords isn’t even higher.

    For those individuals owning a portfolio of properties, setting up a company to manage them is a worthwhile, perfectly tax-efficient thing to do.

    Whilst such vehicles might account for one-fifth of all homes rented out, that still leaves 80 per cent of these properties which are handled on a non-corporate basis.

    Many of those, I imagine, will be owned by individuals who are what I would describe as ‘accidental landlords’ – men and women who never necessarily set out to build a buy-to-let property empire but have almost fallen into it.

    They might have retained their first home as they moved up the property ladder or inherited a house from Great Aunt Hortence and decided to rent them out rather than sell.

    Of course, the impact of the new changes to mortgage tax relief means that being a landlord will lose its appeal for some.

    If they decide not to set up their own companies, they risk a financial headache which is so significant that they will end up doing what they had tried to avoid: a sale.

    Will thise free up homes for first time buyers? This seems unlikely, it is more likely that any attractive properties are hoovered up by larger corporate landlords. It begs the question as to whether this ‘sanitisation’ of landlords is really what the Government wanted?

     

    If you have any queries on landlord tax or on property tax in general then please get in touch.