Was The Budget Really That Much Of A Surprise?
The first Conservative budget for 20 years was expected to be good for Britain; however, the reality was not what many landlords wanted to hear.
The decision to target private rental sector landlords and property investors wasn’t too much of a surprise, as the Government can plainly see where the profits are being made and they, like all the rest of the political parties, want a slice.
On the run up to the general election in May 2015 every other political party openly stated that they intended to target landlords, whilst the conservatives remained quiet, prompting a few political commentators to predict that policies would be introduced surreptitiously that would effectively put money into Government coffers.
That’s exactly what we got last week!
The key points that affect landlords from George Osborne’s budget statement include:
Benefit Cap Lowered To £20,000 (GBP)
The total amount of benefits a family can receive over the course of a year has been reduced from £26,000 (GBP) to £20,000 (GBP) – (£23,000 in London).
This is a particular concern for landlords as any loss of income from the reduced benefit cap will hit tenants’ housing benefit first.
Many private rental sector landlords are now worried about increased rent arrears and the probability that many areas of the UK will become unaffordable for large families to live in.
The Government have said that they will allocate £800 Million (GBP) of discretionary housing payments for councils to help affected tenants.
Housing Benefit Abolished For Under-21s
From April 2017 the automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18- to 21-year-olds will be scrapped for new claimants.
Exceptions will be made for vulnerable young people, including those unable to return to their family home and claimants who were in work for six months prior to making a claim.
Working-Age Benefits Frozen For Four Years
The freeze means Local Housing Allowance (LHA) will fall further behind inflation as the chancellor seeks to stop the housing benefit bill soaring with increasing rents.
Buy To Let Landlord Mortgage Relief Cut
In a £2bn tax bombshell, from April 2017 landlords will no longer be able to claim tax reliefs worth 40% or 45% of the interest payments on their buy-to-let mortgages. Instead, the maximum tax relief will be set at 20%, although the change will be introduced over a four-year period.
Effectively it looks as though 40%/45% taxpayers will only get around half of their mortgage interest (and arrangement fees) offset against their rental income.
20% taxpayers shouldn’t see much change as all mortgage relief will be limited to the basic rate of income tax.
The effect of this will be staged meaning that
- 25% of this extra tax will be payable on profits made in the April 2017 – April 2018 tax year,
- 50% in April 2018 – April 2019,
- 75% in April 2019 – April 2020
- 100% in April 2020 – April 2021 meaning that the full effect of this change won’t be felt until the January 2022 personal tax bill is due.
Despite the staged introduction many PRS landlords have warned that this could see costs passed on to tenants in the form of higher rents.
Wear And Tear Allowance Tightened
Landlords will have to prove they have improved or maintained their rental property before they can deduct the costs from their taxed profits.
Currently, landlords can deduct 10% of the rent from their profits to account for wear and tear regardless of whether they have improved the property or not.
From April 2016 this is set to be replaced by a new system that only allows landlords to get tax relief when they replace furnishings.
Changes To Non-Domicile Rules
This change in entitlement could affect property investment and buy to let, particularly in London as people born in the UK to parents domiciled here will not be able to inherit non-dom status and people will not be able to have permanent non-dom status.
Anyone resident in the UK for 15 of the last 20 years will have to pay full UK tax.
Rent A Room Tax Free Income Threshold Raised
After 18 years, the Rent A Room tax free income threshold is being raised to £7,000 (GBP) per year. There are an estimated 19 million empty bedrooms in owner-occupied properties in England alone. Freeing up just 5% of those rooms would accommodate 1 million people. This move will also fuel the growth in short, informal lets such as the type offered by Airbnb and the like.
The tax reliefs that have been cut by Mr Osborne were hugely important for landlords in being able to offset other astronomic property costs such as lettings agent fees, landlord insurance, maintenance and repairs costs, as well as council tax.
It is still early days and we need to see how HMRC will implement some of these changes, because they may also try to find additional ways to stop property investors and landlords from profiting from property, however, there are ways to get around some of the changes introduced, including:
Limited (Ltd) companies appear to be excluded from the mortgage relief cuts meaning that property investors and landlords could potentially look to purchase their future investment properties through Ltd companies.
Buy To Let mortgage lenders could become more open to this method of purchasing properties similar to the way that commercial lenders already facilitate.
Landlords who already own properties personally or in a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) may want to transfer them to a Limited (Ltd) company; however, they will be subject to capital gains tax and stamp duty.
An alternative method to transfer property ownership whilst retaining the current mortgage would be by using a deed of trust, which would transfer the beneficial ownership to a Ltd company. A good solicitor can draw one of these up for you.
Property investors and landlords could also switch their focus slightly and purchase more properties that need refurbishments.
As long as the property is in a habitable condition when purchased but still needs redecoration and comes into the lettings market before the refurb is done, most repairs such as kitchens, bathrooms, paint etc can be offset against all property income from a whole rental portfolio.
We will always try to keep our sector alive and rents affordable as we are providing services to people who need them, we don’t set out to rip people off, we’re not politicians, we are the ones who take the financial risks, we’re the people who provide housing and it’s our name on the deeds not yours.
You see Mr Osborne, whilst you may think that you are being clever and are tapping in to wealth generated by other people’s hard work and risk taking, well, we as landlords won’t be beaten!
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