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Budget Targets Landlords

Budget Targets Landlords

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:

Tax Relief

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.

Bird_OldLadyWe 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!

What Does The Future Really Hold For PRS Landlords?

What Does The Future Really Hold For PRS Landlords?

Are PRS Landlords Any Better Off
After The Election?

UK private rental sector landlords may have breathed a sigh of relief after the general election results were announced last week, but is the future still rosy for the PRS?

Conservatives Vowed To Leave PRS Landlords AloneThe Conservatives may have been voted into Government by a small majority over the other political rivals, but will all the election promises be kept or is it more likely that we will see additional legislation concerning rent caps, longer tenancies and changes to tenant’s rights being introduced via other means?

The way I see it, the future under a Conservative Government will be no different from the experiences of the last 5 years.
The main targets will still be PRS landlord’s and letting agents and the victims will always be the tenants.

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What Lord Freud Had Say To The RLA

What Lord Freud Had Say To The RLA

Welfare Reform Minister Speaks Out On Universal Credit

Controversial welfare reform minister Lord Freud has spoken exclusively to Residential Property Investor magazine, published by the Residential Landlords Association.

Universal Credit was originally intended to be a fundamental reordering of the UK’s welfare and state benefit system, however when policy guidelines were announced, the reforms dealt private rental sector landlords a cruel blow, as it was decreed that landlords with tenants claiming local housing allowance (LHA) would no longer receive direct payments, even if they believed that the tenant was in an extremely vulnerable position.

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Universal Credit Will Backfire Warns Think Tank

Government Welfare Reforms Set To Backfire As Claimants Don't Want Universal CreditThe proposed welfare reforms are not wanted by the majority of claimants or their landlords according to research by the Social Market Foundation.

Tenants with low incomes and families claiming benefit will be pushed further into financial difficulties and debt by the shift to monthly benefit payments under Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms.

Attempts as part of the new Universal Credit system to encourage claimants to budget properly and make their own rental payments risk backfiring, the Social Market Foundation said.

It called for the introduction of an online budgeting tool allowing claimants to set the frequency of payments themselves and allocate income to different items of expenditure.

However the foundation stopped short of calling for landlords to continue to receive direct payments for tenants that were considered vulnerable or at risk.

Under the Universal Credit there will be one single monthly benefit payment – rather than weekly or fortnightly as at present – and all tenants will have to pay landlords themselves.

The Government says it will be “flexible” with those who struggle to manage their money.

Research by the Social Market Foundation, entitled Sink or Swim: the Impact of Universal Credit, found that most low income households were opposed to the moves, expressing fears that they would not be able to budget properly and could end up in rent arrears and even face eviction.

Nigel Keohane, the think tank’s deputy director and co-author of the report doubted whether plans by the Government to provide special arrangements for certain vulnerable individuals was adequate, stating: “The Government’s laudable aim that Universal Credit should prepare families for work, boost their resilience to financial shocks, and simplify the system is at risk of backfiring. By moving to a single monthly payment for all benefits, the Government is removing the markers and aids that families currently rely on to budget effectively. Our research shows that this will throw people in at the deep end leaving them either to sink or swim. This laissez-faire approach will create real problems not only for families themselves, but also for public service organisations, such as social and private sector landlords and childcare providers, that families will end up owing money to. Instead of mandating monthly payments and centrally planning which families to exempt, the Government should allow low income families to take the decision themselves through an online budgeting tool,” he said. “This would allow the reforms to work with the grain of wider government objectives like personal responsibility and increased financial capability rather than working against them as the current system seems set to do.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Universal Credit will be paid monthly because most people in work are paid that way and the system should help people get used to the patterns of working life. But we will make sure that no one falls through the cracks, and we are working with local authorities and the financial industry on how best to support individuals. We have always said we would be flexible with people who might struggle to manage their money.”

Hmmm…..If that last statement is true, then the DWP had better start preparing to open a separate department to deal with struggling landlords as the Universal Credit system is severely flawed and the majority of claimants don’t want direct payments because they are unable to cope at the present time, so what happens to them in 2013?

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Landlords want to avoid LHA tenants

UK Landlords Want To Avoid Tenants Claiming Benefits

A survey conducted by the National Landlords Association (NLA) revealed that nearly half of its members felt that they could no longer afford to rent their properties to tenants receiving Local Housing Allowance or Housing Benefit, and as a result they would almost definitely stop considering LHA tenants for their properties.

Similarly almost 70% of the landlords that responded to the survey felt they would completely withdraw from the UK benefit sector within the next 3 years.

The recent cuts in LHA payments has meant that benefit claimants can now only be awarded a maximum of 30% of the local average rent, whereas before the cuts it was 50%.

Also, the age at which claimants can claim for more than a single room in a shared house has been increased from 25 to 35, meaning more people are being forced to share…a prospect that could result in some landlords needing to register their property as a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO).

David Salusbury, Chairman of the NLA, commented on the findings saying; “It’s concerning that so many landlords appear to be planning to withdraw from the LHA market within just three years, as they can no longer afford to let their properties to tenants at the reduced benefit rate.”

Local councils have been given permission to contact private landlords with the option of direct LHA payments in return for slightly reduced rents, however it seems that only 25% of councils in the UK have made any effort to speak directly with landlords about the matter.

And those local authorities that have contacted landlords, have offered such lowly reduced rental payments, that UK landlords are refusing to deal with them.

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