Residential landlords in the UK are being urged not to read too much into the decision by the country to leave the European Union, having gone through a turbulent period recently.
Buy to let landlords are now paying a 3% surcharge in stamp duty on each additional property they buy to add to their portfolios and are also facing further tax changes. Now there are concerns that Brexit could affect their businesses.
However, according to Richard Lambert, chief executive officer of the National Landlords Association (NLA), while leaving the EU is completely unknown territory, jumping to conclusions isn’t going to help anyone.
‘We welcome governor Mark Carney’s steadying words and his reassurance that the Bank of England and the Treasury have extensive contingency plans in place to ensure the country’s financial stability,’ said Lambert.
‘Any knee-jerk reaction will have a real impact on our members’ mortgages, tenants’ rents and overall confidence in the market. So we would urge the policy as regards to interest rates should be, to continue the Prime Minister’s analogy, one of steady as she goes,’ he added.
In a joint statement, David Cox, managing director of Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) and Mark Hayward, managing director of National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), said that in the short term the market can weather the uncertainty.
‘The outcome of the EU referendum will create a period of uncertainty among home owners, buyers, investors, landlords and developers. We can expect international investors to look a lot harder at the UK as a market and this will have a consequential impact upon the house building sector as investment may be stalled,’ the statement said.
‘In the short term we believe that both prices, and rents, will remain stable, but we cannot be certain about the next quarter as political instability, and market unrest, could lead through into prices in the housing market,’ it pointed out.
‘We believe that the UK housing market is resilient, as is the supply chain that drives it. But as we indicated in our Brexit report last month, the bigger impact may well be in the skills necessary to drive UK housing development, and this is now a major concern for UK buyers and renters,’ it added.
Anne Wilson, senior tax manager of the tax department at Pierce Chartered Accountants, pointed out that tougher buy to let mortgage lending criteria has been announced.
The rules will require lenders to carry out stricter stress tests on prospective borrowers or those wishing to re-mortgage to ensure that they have sufficient capital to cover repayments if interest rates increase to 5.5%.
In the future, there will also be changes to the way that tax relief for interest payments on the purchase of residential lettings will be given in the tax computation. This will affect individuals, partnerships and limited liability partnerships which let out residential properties. At present there are no proposals for this restriction to apply to furnished holiday lettings nor to companies with residential lettings.
She explained that currently, rental profits are reduced by any loan interest paid and therefore a top rate taxpayer could receive tax relief at 45% on their finance costs. However, under new legislation the loan finance costs will be relieved by way of a reduction of the tax liability, rather than a reduction in the rental profits, and is restricted to relief at the basic rate of income tax.
Those with substantial rents and interest costs, thus with low net profits, who are currently basic rate taxpayers, could see their income pushed into the higher rate band as the interest costs will be added back to the rental income.
For example, an individual whose only income is rents of £50,000 and interest costs of £20,000 would have net income of £30,000, and so within the basic rate tax band. Under the new rules the same individual would be a higher rate taxpayer because their income would be £50,000 with a deduction for interest relief given at the basic rate only.
As a result of the way in which the net rent will be calculated those whose income is close to the £50,000 threshold for the withdrawal of child benefit, and those with income near £100,000 for the withdrawal of personal allowance could be adversely affected even though their income has not actually increased.
To ‘soften the blow’ these measures will be phased in gradually over four years and will apply to 25% of the interest costs in the 2017/2018 tax year, 50% in the 2018/2019 tax year and 75% in the 2019/2020 tax year before being implemented in full in the year to April 2021.
‘If you have a relatively modest portfolio of properties which are let out as residential lettings, it maybe that you will simply have to accept that your income tax liability in respect of those lettings may increase in future as taking any steps to mitigate the interest restriction could be costly. Sharing income with family members or family trusts may be worth considering but capital gains tax issues will need to be addressed,’ she explained.
She added that those with a substantial portfolio of residential lets may wish to consider incorporating their business, however, there could be a substantial capital gains tax liability if they incorporate their property portfolio because moving the properties into a company could trigger capital gains tax.
‘However, if you have a large property portfolio that you devote a substantial amount of time to managing, it may be possible to claim capital gains tax roll-over relief on incorporation of a business to mitigate the capital gains tax liability arising. If you have no gains in your property portfolio it may be possible to transfer the properties into a company without triggering capital gains tax,’ she explained.
But there is likely to be a substantial stamp duty liability on the property transfers to a company, unless specific reliefs are available, and she advises that incorporation of a property business should not be undertaken without specialist advice.