The Telegraph reported this week that 25% of buy-to-let landlords intend to sell the properties they are currently renting out, because of the government’s campaign of swingeing tax increases in the sector.
Unintended Consequences of the Tax Grab
This news has caused alarm not just in rental circles but throughout the professional property market, because such a large volume of property hitting the market at the same time could destabilise the entire sector. Another factor here is that rental properties are often concentrated in certain areas. Many landlords favour terraced or semi detached houses in reasonably modest areas because the prices are lower but rents are still reasonable, giving a workable investment yield.
The property market is always essentially local, as landlord advice in Manchester shows. In a local area, a large number of buy-to-let landlords selling up at the same time will definitely affect house prices. In fact if landlords feel that they need to beat a rush to market they will get in early and market their properties at higher prices, hoping to avoid a stampede of rental properties on the market once the buying season starts in spring.
The other undesirable effect of a wholesale dumping of buy-to-let investments will be that rents will rocket upwards because the property being sold will not be bought by other investors but by homeowners. This will remove large amounts of rental property from the market and cause major problems for those tenants who simply do not have the option to buy a property. As a result, the demand for council properties will almost certainly increase.
Nearly 1,000 experienced buy-to-let landlords were surveyed by the Residential Landlords’ Association and the results were pretty staggering. Almost 25% have either already sold their properties or are planning to sell them as a result of the government’s decision to stop mortgage interest being offset against rental income when landlords are working out their taxes.
The draconian changes to taxes on rental income were announced in the 2015 budget but will not come into effect until next year. The tax changes are hardest on those landlords who pay tax at the higher rates (40% or 45%) and those who have bigger mortgages. Taxpayers who aren’t on the higher rates so far, may find that because their taxable income has gone up, they are transferred into a higher rate tax band, a double whammy.
Tenants to Bear the Brunt
Tenants are going to bear the brunt of the new tax regime – not only will they find that there are far fewer rental properties around, but those that remain will be at significantly higher rents. The reduction in supply will of course mean that since demand is still constant, rents on available properties will rise, and landlords will need to make more from their property in order to get a yield that makes the investment sensible.
In fact a previous study found that nearly 60% of landlords were intending to increase their rental charges to offset the loss in income caused by the tax changes. Kent Reliance building society carried out a survey in June that found that landlords planning to increase rents were looking at an average figure of 5.6%.
Each Year Will See Further Effects
The tax changes are not coming in all at once one but are being phased in over a number of years and won’t be fully implemented until 2020. Therefore we should be able to see the effect that the changes are having year-on-year. Any changes in the first year in terms of landlords selling their properties and tenants finding that rents are rising can be expected to be magnified in every year that follows.
And the Icing on the Cake…
The detrimental effects on tenants and on local property markets described above, will be magnified by the sneaky new rules that state that when a lender offers a loan on a buy-to-let property, to a landlord who owns four or more properties, the lender will have to financially assess their entire portfolio.
The official reason given for this is that the more properties a landlord owns, the higher their mortgage arrears are likely to be. The actual effect will be that lenders will make fewer loans to landlords who own multiple properties, so the few landlords left in the game will not be able to buy new property.
It’s no way to run a housing policy.