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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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Will The Housing Crisis Win The Election?

Will The Housing Crisis Win The Election?

The Politics Of Housing

It is still generally acknowledged by all political parties that there is a housing shortage in the UK, and each political party wants to offer the public alternative methods of tackling the problem in an attempt to win electoral favour.

Most political parties see the housing crisis in the UK as a possible election winning issue and each party’s election manifesto promises the general public many things, including further private rented sector (PRS) reforms and the introduction of additional legislation. There isn’t much offered by any political party for landlords, except for the promise to put an end to the private rental sector.

A recent survey by Ipsos MORI research published in January 2015 discovered a confusing conundrum, in that:

  • 75% of the public agree that there is a housing crisis in the UK
  • 48% of the public disagree there is a housing crisis in their locality

The publication of each political party’s election manifesto is intended to give the public a clearer indication of the housing priorities of the UK’s next parliament.

However, despite claims of a housing shortage nationally there are still some UK regions that have large proportions of derelict and abandoned properties, many still in a habitable condition.

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Landlords Warned To Get Ready For Universal Credit

Landlords Warned To Get Ready For Universal Credit  Chaos!

National Universal Credit Roll-Out
Starts February 2015 

Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith surprised commentators with an announcement that Universal Credit (UC) will be rolled out to all Jobcentres and local authorities in the UK by February 2015 following the apparent success of the pilot scheme that was originally trialled in the North West.

Many Universal Credit detractors predicted that nothing significant would happen, before next year’s General Election, however, Iain Duncan Smith stunned everyone by announcing that Universal Credit will be rolled out to all Jobcentres and local authorities across the country, starting February 2015.

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New LHA Rates for 2014 -2015 Published

New LHA Rates for 2014 -2015 Published

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) Rates Change In April

Every year the Government publish Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates that are periodically reviewed and payment levels in some UK regions may change without notice.

The April 2014 – March 2015 LHA rates have now been published and the revised list makes interesting reading for landlords and letting agents who are willing to accept tenants claiming benefits.

UK private rental sector landlords are able to ensure rental property profits by allowing their properties to be let to tenants claiming housing benefit (HB), with local authority rental payments exceeding buy-to-let mortgage payments.

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Mystery Of Missing £400,000 Housing Benefit Payments

Mystery Of Missing £400,000 Housing Benefit Payments

R2R Company Owes Landlords £400,000 Housing Benefit Payments

Around £400,000 (GBP) in housing benefit payments have mysteriously disappeared after being paid to London Housing Solutions one of London’s biggest property agents, who specialise in letting property to tenants claiming benefits, Channel 4 News have revealed.

Channel 4 News attempted to trace both the present and former directors of the company, who admitted that the money had gone astray, but neither would accept responsibility for its disappearance.

Local Housing Solutions, an offshoot of London Housing Solutions, who until recently shared offices and staff in Catford also denied benefiting from the missing payments.

Channel 4 News understands at least 100 private rented sector landlords are owed rent by London Housing Solutions and the tenants spoken to by Channel 4, fear eviction as a result of the non payments.

The two rent 2 rent companies were originally set up by Keith MacGregor, who failed to respond to Channel 4 News’ accusations.

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TV Show 'Benefits Street' Stigmatising The LHA MarketTV Show ‘Benefits Street’ Stigmatising
The LHA Market

 Channel 4’s highly controversial ‘Benefits Street’ is stigmatising the LHA market and misrepresenting tenants according to Aki Ellahi, Director of Dssmove.co.uk and his statement has sparked a huge debate on PIN Academy, a private members forum. 

The heated debate also covers the fallout after Fergus Wilson, the Kent-based professional landlord, recently announced that he will no longer be accept benefit tenants due to increasing rent arrears. 

Many property investors feel that the Channel 4 docu-soap and the media rhetoric surrounding Mr Wilson’s decision are giving a heavily distorted impression of the UK’s LHA market, much to the chagrin of other property professionals. 

Aki Ellahi has stated that:

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Former Deputy PM Wants Action Against Rogue Landlords

Former Deputy PM Wants Action Against Rogue Landlords

Former Deputy PM Reckons “Rachmanism” Is Back!

We need to take action against private landlords and protect society’s most vulnerable people” – John Prescott

Former deputy PM, John Prescott has used his weekly column in the Sunday Mirror to hit out at rogue landlords in the UK’s private rented sector (PRS).

Mr Prescott wrote: “We tackled Rachmanism through legislation, housing finance and building more local authority housing. But 50 years later Rachman lives on in a new generation of unscrupulous landlords. More than a million rented homes in the private sector are now substandard. But for years, the taxpayer has subsidised them through housing benefit. Research has revealed that at least 36% of London’s council houses sold off by the Thatcher government are now in the hands of private landlords. Rents are at their highest ever to maximise obscene profits.”

Peter Rachman was a Polish migrant, who earned the poor reputation of being the archetypal slum landlord, because he subdivided houses into flats and rooms, forced paying tenants out of their properties to replace them with migrants from the West Indies, as it was easier to charge the migrants higher rents because they weren’t covered by UK rent protection legislation.

Mr Prescott also commented on mega landlord, Fergus Wilson’s decision to evict tenants on benefits and rent to Eastern Europeans instead, writing: “We pay out £9.3 Billion (GBP) in housing benefit every year. It helped people like Wilson build their property empires. But cuts to these benefits and the introduction of the bedroom tax means they’re looking to maintain their margins. Now, only one in five landlords rents to people on benefits. Cutting benefits has led to landlords kicking out the poorest people in society. We must get tough and follow Newham Council’s lead by licensing all private landlords to stop them kicking out the vulnerable to feather their own nests.”

It appears that the former deputy PM must have had a small lapse in his memory because it was the Labour government that introduced Local Housing Allowance, (LHA) – which replaced housing benefit and slashed the amount of money that tenants in private rented sector properties could claim towards housing costs, paving the way for the current unpopular bedroom tax that is affecting tenants in the social housing sector. The Labour government also introduced the ATOS Work Capability Assessments that have been attributed to the welfare reforms that the UK is also currently seeing.

Owning rental properties and letting them to tenants is a business and rental prices are dictated by local area demand as well as the LHA rates in each region, so it is unfair of the former deputy PM to tar all landlords with the same brush. Yes there are some unscrupulous landlords out there, and there are unscrupulous bankers and businessmen too, but they are not being targeted by former politicians who use the media to their own ends.

Wind your neck in 2 Jags, and stick to commenting on matters that you know about, rather than wading into a debate on which you know very little!

Landlords may avoid LHA tenants in future

Benefit Cuts To Make 40,000 Homeless

PRS Landlords Urged Not To Refuse
Housing Benefit Tenants

Following the decision by UK mega landlord, Fergus Wilson to evict benefit tenants from his rental properties, a campaign group has called on landlords with rental properties in the private rental sector not to discriminate against tenants on benefits.

Dan Wilson Craw, a spokesperson for poverty charity ‘Priced Out’, said such action could make people who need benefits unwilling to claim them due to fear of losing their home, meaning they could fall further into poverty, stating: “This is just one symptom of a wider housing market that is simply not working in the consumer’s interests”. The charity chose to discuss the issue with the Guardian newspaper, after the broadsheet featured the announcement by Fergus Wilson, who owns around 1,000 rental properties in Kent, after he had taken a drastic course of action to evict all tenants claiming benefits and instructed his appointed letting agents not to accept any further applications from prospective tenants who receive housing benefits due to the high number of tenants claiming local housing allowance (LHA) who had fallen into rental arrears. 

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MP’s Claim Universal Credit Is Another Government White Elephant

MP’s Claim Universal Credit Is Another Government White Elephant

Universal Credit Roll-Out faces major delays

The current Local Housing Allowance (LHA) benefit system is likely to continue until at least 2017 for the majority of private rental sector (PRS) landlords and tenants in most of the UK, following major delays to the roll-out of the new Universal Credit system.

Universal Credit was originally due to be rolled out nationally to all new tenants claiming benefits from October this year, however due to continued problems, the controversial welfare reform measure will just be extended to an additional six jobcentres.

The delay is being blamed on poor IT by Government ministers, leading to claims that Universal Credit is just another Government white elephant.

Universal Credit was heralded by its proponents as an easier way to deliver state benefits including housing benefit or LHA and tax credits into one lump sum paid monthly to claimants, but its proposal saw an immediate backlash from PRS landlords, letting agents and landlord associations over the abolition of direct rent payments to landlords.

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