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Let’s focus on 2017


This time of year it’s customary to look back over the year that’s passed, and perhaps at the same time project forward over the year to come. The year that’s gone has probably seen the biggest changes in a single year in the history of the UK private rented sector (PRS); such a landmark needs recording. I tried my best to summarise the changes in my last opinion piece in our November Newsletter here: What a Year it’s been for the Private Landlord!

Forecasting is a dangerous game and few so called experts ever get it right, witness Brexit and the Trump election victories. However, I think we can safely say that if we base our opinions on solid research, then we should be half way there. Thankfully we are helped in that regard by a brand new piece of detailed research carried out into the landlord and buy-to-let market on behalf of the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) by Kath Scanlon and Christine Whitehead of the London School of Economics.

This is a fascinating piece of work based on one of the largest and most detailed regional PRS surveys ever undertaken in the UK, and I think it’s about the most up-to-date and accurate picture of the UK residential letting market it’s possible to get.

The outcome is a report concluding that private sector individual landlords, whether these are landlords with buy-to-let mortgages or without a mortgage, are adopting what the authors term an "even keel" mentality in the face of some substantially negative regulatory changes; taxation, buy-to-let mortgage lending controls and some challenging new tenancy management legislation.

Are some landlords being myopic?

In some cases this “even keel” mentality may be misguided and based on ignorance, particularly of the swinging tax increases coming in over the next 4 years imposed by the Osborne Budgets last year – see table below. As the report says, a fair proportion (around a quarter) of private landlords are operating on a “need-to-know” basis, that is they only find out about taxation changes and other letting rule changes when it affects them, and oftentimes, that’s just too late.

A hugely stabilising factor in this, and one of the salient points in the report, is that around half of all landlords have no mortgage debt at all. For these landlords, the most financially threatening changes, those pertaining to mortgage tax relief, will be little affected, if at all, whereas the one-quarter of buy-to-let landlords with the largest portfolios, and the highest incomes, will be negatively affected. In some of the worst cases their annual income from their buy-to-let portfolios will turn into a loss, when the tax is paid.

The conclusion for up to 20% of landlords is that the government’s targeted measures aimed at buy-to-let landlords may impose significant burdens on these individuals – and in the main they are individuals as opposed to limited companies - without necessarily having a great effect or influence on the behaviour of the private rented sector as a whole. In other words, many of the changes introduced by George Osborne could have unintended consequences, and ironically will hit those landlords who tend to operate at a higher professional level, operators the government has said it wants to encourage.

There has been a concerted move by a minority of landlords to use companies to shelter their buy-to-let properties from tax, either by transferring existing properties into a company, or dong this with new purchases. Incorporation has its merits for some, but there are many complications. The pros and cons of every investor’s own situation need careful consideration and expert advice, and many experts feel there is little advantage in doing this, plus there’s always the risk that HMRC will be changing the rules again. In fact there are plans in train by government, as announced in the latest Budget, to change the entity rules for small companies.

Some Interesting Statistics

To my mind, some fascinating statistics emerge from the study. According to Scanlon and Whitehead 2,500 landlords, some 49% of respondents owned all their property outright, having no mortgage debt at all. This, they said, was an unexpectedly high figure given that a previous government figure had estimated this to be around 23%.

However, those with buy-to-let mortgages tend to be younger, manage their properties more professionally, have higher non-property earnings, and hold larger and more valuable portfolios than other (non-mortgaged) landlords. 47% of the total number of rented properties in the survey had a buy-to-let mortgage.

Among the buy-to-let landlords (those with mortgages), over half had loan-to-value ratios on their total portfolio of below 60%, with only 1% reporting loan-to-value ratios of over 90%.

Some 62% of the sample of landlords interviewed own only a single rented property, with buy-to-let landlords more likely to have a multi-property portfolio than other landlords. Just over half of buy-to-let landlords own more than one property, with the overall average size of a buy-to-let portfolio being at 2.7 properties – this proportion sits in the tenth percentile of all landlords.

However, there has been a marked shift towards smaller portfolios among buy-to-let landlords since the last time the CML undertook a similar survey in 2004, as the chart below shows.

See Figure 1

An Aging Landlord Population

The age profile of landlords somewhat reflects that of the home-owner population as an aging “baby-boomer” generation. The shift from 2004, to date has been quite dramatic: then only 24% of landlords were aged 55 or over, whereas now 61% are. On the other hand, what the report calls buy-to-let landlords (those with mortgages) are typically younger than the other cohort, but only moderately so.

The authors put this down to the rate of at which new investors coming into the BTL sector is slowing down. In 2004, 18% of buy-to-let landlords had bought their first property within the last two years, compared to only around 7% today.

A Typical Landlord Today

In terms of a profile of a UK landlord: they will typically own rental property close to their own home, and are just as likely to manage their property themselves (50%) as to use a managing agent.

Their motivation to become a landlord in the first place would revolve around the need for a pension, an investment for future capital growth, a regular income to supplement their earnings, and in preference to other forms of investment which currently offer poorer returns.

Something like 66% of the private landlords in the sample gain less than 25% of their household income from rent, whereas around 5% or 1 in 20 said they made a good full-time living from being a private residential landlord.

In terms of incomes, the median (middle) gross annual rental income was around £7,500, but the mean (average) was £17,300 as those landlords with very high rental incomes skewed the distribution. About 33% (one-third) of the landlords sampled earned a gross rental income equating to renting out a single property for between £416 and £830 a month.

Nearly 25% (one-quarter) of the landlords surveyed started out as landlords by accident, (the proverbial accidental landlord) due to various circumstances such as renting out their own home when moving away, and around 14% started when they originally wanted to provide a home for a relative or friend.

30% (one-third) of the landlords questioned offered agreements lasting longer than 12 months on at least some of their properties, while the rest say their tenants don’t demand longer terms.

What of landlords Future Plans?

Most landlords seem to take a long-term view regarding their investment properties, and many have been active in landlording for decades. Currently, in contrast to previous years, there appears to be only a small inclination or desire in most landlords - whether a buy-to-let landlord (mortgaged) or not - to either increase or decrease the size of their property holdings over the next five years. Yet there appears to be an underlying trend or drift towards a modest disposal plan for some of their holdings. Certainly, it would appear that more landlords currently expect to reduce their property portfolios in the foreseeable future than to increase them.

In is expected that over the next 12 months a net 6% of landlords will reduce their portfolios, while over the next five years this net figure is something like 14%. On the other hand, the buy-to-let landlords seem slightly less inclined to divest, with equivalent figures for mortgaged landlords at a net 5% over the next 12 months and 11% over the next five years.

Generally, the reasons given by landlords for looking to reduce their property holdings were as part of a loner term planned exit. Only 21% of landlords cited tax changes as part of their reason to dispose of properties. Not surprisingly, however, among those landlords with mortgages, tax was a prominent factor in their decision making. 36%, of these said taxation was the reason, compared to only 13% of the non-mortgaged landlords. Overall awareness of the various tax changes was extremely variable (see table 13 from the report below).

See Figure 2

As usual in the diverse and widespread landlord community, with the tax changes as with all legislative changes, news travels slowly. It can take years for some to catch up on these changes; we are still seeing numerous landlord falling foul of the deposit protection rules some 9 years after their introduction. With the introduction of a whole raft of new rules last year this level of ignorance and behaviour is not going to be good enough if a landlord is to run a profitable business.

Whether through ignorance or foresight, the great majority of landlords expect their net income to stay the same or increase slightly over the next five years. However, 16% of buy-to-let landlords expect to see their income fall. When asked to say what their main coping strategy would be if their cash flow position worsened, only 16% and 12% of landlords said this would be to raise rents for new and existing tenants respectively, suggesting that many landlords will look for other options before choosing to raise rents.

One strategy that some landlords are adopting is to cut down on paying letting agent’s fees and managing more of their properties themselves. See: Agents will lose business if landlords’ profits fall

Paul Smee, CML director general, says of the report’s findings:

While the overall findings are encouraging and offer a reassuring picture of relative stability, there is a certain irony in the researchers' conclusions that the landlords who will be most affected by the government's tax changes are those at the most professional end of the sector - those with large, leveraged portfolios.

These landlords will be particularly hard hit by the changes in the treatment of mortgage interest and may choose to divest or moderate their property holdings. Given the government's longstanding interest in professionalising the sector, policymakers will need to be closely attuned to the risk of unintended consequences and, indeed, own goals.

What of the Future?

As we sit and await a clearer picture to emerge over the Brexit vote legal challenge and what is to follow, the triggering of article 50 and the Brexit negotiations, it is impossible to say with any certainty how the UK economy and in particular the property market will be affected next year and beyond. Will immigration controls be so tight they will affect demand for private rental and student housing? Will the Chancellor see sense and relax some of the worst aspects of the landlord taxes? Will the increase in institutional investment in rental property, particularly in the student market, affect the small-scale private landlord to any great degree?

Answers will emerge all in good time, in the meantime we can be certain that given the size and importance of the buy-to-let rental...


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Elfin Kitchens

Elfin Kitchens flies into action

A 1000mm compact kitchen from Elfin Kitchens has been installed in an innovative new holiday rental home, which recently featured on Channel 4’s ‘George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces’. A converted Sea King helicopter now offers accommodation for a family of five, with Elfin’s white steel kitchen supplying full cooking, refrigeration and storage facilities for guests.

The conversion of the Sea King was undertaken by Stirling-based farming couple Martyn and Louise Steedman, after purchasing the aircraft in an online auction. It now takes pride of place at Mains Farm Wigwams in Stirling, Scotland.

The new compact kitchen – which sits in a space previously occupied by the sonar station – was chosen for its ability to supply a range of functions in a restricted space. Two solid hotplates offer simple yet effective cooking, with a built-in 30-minute safety cut-out timer for added safety. The kitchen’s integrated A+ rated Liebherr fridge with internal freezer compartment delivers ample cold storage, while a 20L Russell Hobbs solo microwave allows guests to prepare hot food. Furthermore, two integrated drawers are included for dry food storage, with a stainless steel sink, drainer and tap allowing guests to keep crockery and cutlery clean throughout their stay.

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Accommodation for Students

Rent Report Summary 2016

Following on from separate reports created for both private halls and private accommodation, this piece provides a brief summary of the key findings on rents for 2016.

Looking at the data for student accommodation across the UK, we found that privately rented accommodation (student house/flat) again comes out as the cheaper option for 2016. Average weekly rents (ARVs) for private accommodation came out at £86.76 (£1.27 increase from 2015), whilst on average, private halls costed £210.45 per week. Drawing on the Accommodation Costs Survey 2015, private halls are also the most expensive option when factoring in institutional accommodation (university halls), which came out at £134.23 per week.

But, it is important to note that the value for private halls includes those in London, and subsequently skews the data. The ARV of private halls without London included was £145.52 per week (£6.63 increase from 2015). Examination of London private halls shows that the ARV is £275.38. Similarly, ARVs for private accommodation also show London to be the most expensive location (£136.61 per week).

Across both accommodation types, the range of ARVs was quite wide; with private halls falling anywhere between £92-£275 per week and private accommodation costing £56-£148 per week across the country. In both private halls and private accommodation, the cheapest ARVs are in the North of England whilst the most expensive are generally found within the South of England...


Landlord Manager for Sage

Landlord Manager for Sage, property management software with a difference

There’s a constant battle against time and budgets for landlords and letting agents and it is only getting harder. The demanding workload and the need to abide by new legislations such as Right to Rent and changes to landlord tax relief will bring more challenges. To help manage your portfolio and business it is important that you have a suitable system in place.

With 2017 on the horizon it’s time to scrap your spreadsheets and work with a solution that delivers professional results, helping to monitor and forecast the financial aspects of your business too.

Here is where we come in.

Landlord Manager for Sage, the obvious solution.

When it comes to managing your portfolio with a solution, there are plenty of options to choose from but Landlord Manager stands out from the crowded market place.

What can Landlord Manager for Sage offer that other solutions can’t?

For a start, it’s seamless 2-way integration with Sage 50 Essentials and Sage 50, the market-leading accountancy software in the UK.

What does this mean?

• Your financials are in an industry-standard format, recognised by over 90% accountants

• Financial data entered in Landlord Manager automatically feeds into Sage (and vice-versa)

• This saves time on data entry, minimises the likelihood of human error occurring whilst your accountancy fees are dramatically reduced

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Emerging Property

Fully managed, high yielding UK property investments

With a focus on two of the UK’s most highly regarded property assets – Purpose Built Student Accommodation and Serviced Apartments - Emerging Property provide high yielding, fixed NET income property investments to buyers from all over the world.

At 8-12% NET annually, property investors receive some of the best yields available anywhere in the UK.

These yields are then fixed in place for 10 years, with no additional costs throughout this period.

Buyers also maintain complete control over their assets, with long-term leasehold ownership secured at Land Registry.

They also have full flexibility when it comes to selling on their assets, with no contractual restrictions and with resale properties in these sectors highly sought after.

Onsite management: an effortless income

Each property is fully managed onsite by a professional and industry-accredited management company.

These teams are responsible for all operational aspects, and are incentivised to drive up occupancy and ensure the highest standards of property maintenance.

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The Property Investor & Homebuyer Show is UK's premier property expo

The Property Investor & Homebuyer Show is UK's premier property expo – and a “MUST ATTEND” event for landlords and Buy-to-Let investors - and indeed anyone serious about making money from property investment.

It returns to ExCeL London for its ‘Spring Edition’ on 28th & 29th April 2017.

It is the ideal place for networking, obtaining reliable and up to date property market information and, of course, property to buy. It caters for all levels of property experience – everyone from the novice to the seasoned investor will find an answer to their questions.

With 120+ exhibitors expected and over 80 seminars, presentations and panel debates scheduled, visitors can identify the expertise and advice needed to make the right decisions on their specific area of investment interest.

2 features expected to prove particularly popular in April are:

HMO Zone … HMO investments - and the high net rental yield potential they offer - have been rapidly growing in popularity among investors in recent years. April’s show will include representation from several of the UK's HMO specialist companies and expert advisers – and will feature prominently in the seminar programme.

PropTech Zone … Interested in technology advances in the property sector?  April’s show presents a zone dedicated to this burgeoning sector.  It will feature a line up of innovators who will present a selection of exciting digital...


Tax Insider

A harsher climate for buy-to-let landlords

The previous Chancellor George Osborne dealt buy-let landlords something of a triple whammy last year.

• The first blow was dealt in the Summer 2015 Budget when the Chancellor revealed plans to restrict interest rate relief for tax relief for finance costs to the basic rate of tax.

• This was followed up at the Autumn 2015 Statement by two further blows – the introduction of a 3% stamp duty land tax (SDLT) supplement on second and subsequent residential properties and three,

• Came a reduction in the capital gains tax payment window for disposals of residential property to 30 days.

Blow 1 – restriction in relief for finance costs

Under the rules as they currently apply, landlords are able to deduct finance costs from their rental income in arriving at the taxable profits for their property rental business. In this way, relief is given at the taxpayer’s marginal rate of tax. Thus if the landlord is a basic rate taxpayer, relief is given at 20%, if the taxpayer is a higher rate taxpayer, relief is given at 40% and if the taxpayer is an additional rate taxpayer, relief is given at 45%. Finance costs include mortgage interest (but not the repayment element of the payment where the mortgage in question is a repayment mortgage) and any incidental costs of obtaining the loan finance.

However, from 2017/18 changes are being phased in which will change the way in which relief is given for interest and other financing costs...


Landlord Investment Show

National Landlord Investment Show is the number one Property show for Portfolio Landlords, High Worth Investors and first time Investors

The team at The National Landlord Investment Show have certainly been busy since the launch in May 2013 and have organised 43 events across the UK in some of the UK's largest Cities and buy-to let "hot spot" areas.

The last event for 2016 was in the heart of the Capital at London Olympia on Tuesday 8th November and saw over 3,500 Landlords and high worth Investors through the doors on the day. The company have successfully positioned themselves as the market leader in events for the buy-to-let industry and as well as the shows the company launched Landlord Investor Magazine in September 2014 which reaches over 40,000 Landlords and Investors and is written by Industry experts.

Tracey Hanbury Director added, "We have very exciting plans for 2017 which includes two new additions to the companies portfolio which will be providing a great tool to the ever changing property sector, we very much look forward to launching these soon”.

We would like to say a massive thank you to all of our Sponsors, Exhibitors, Speakers and Attendees that have made our shows a huge success and already we have received massive interest about our shows in 2017.

The event will be in 11 locations in 2017 including five National shows.

Show schedule:


1st March - NORTH LONDON
Venue - Emirates Stadium - Arsenal Football Club
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Decorus for Sage

Decorus for Sage, property management software on another level

If you are looking for a sophisticated system that can operate on multiple levels with a leading accounts engine then Decorus for Sage is a must!

Managing your lettings, blocks and estates efficiently with our purpose built software couldn’t be simpler! Suitable for residential, commercial and mixed portfolios Decorus for Sage is the ‘go to solution’ for those wanting more!

Premium property management software with a powerful accountancy package

When it comes to accountancy software Sage is the product of choice for the majority of accountants, more than 90% of them are familiar with the format.

Running a property management company is no different to any other business. Whatever platform you use to manage your portfolio you still need to prepare your financial data for your accountant.

Why waste time, money and resources doing this when Decorus can do it for you!

Sage 50 is the industry standard, the robust solution offers features that have been developed and perfected over the years. The true 2-way integration sees your financial data entered in Decorus feed into Sage, and vice-versa.

This doesn’t just eliminate double entry for your workload, it also provides users with the ability to manage the financial side of the business and portfolio using real-time data. This makes it easier to:

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Autumn Statement 2016 - Tax Changes - Reminder

When George Osborne was fired a naive part of me hoped the new Chancellor of the Exchequer would reverse some of his cruel policies.

Here I’m not talking about the swingeing cuts in Government spending – those are all absolutely vital to tackle the colossal debt mountain (it’s heading towards £2 trillion in case you were wondering).

What I would call cruel is making someone pay tax on income they haven’t earned.

Imagine your taxable income’s £50,000 and someone from the Ministry of Tough Luck comes along and says, “actually that’s not how things work around here anymore. From now on we’re going to pretend you earned £100,000.”

That’s pretty much what’s happening to many landlords with the cut in mortgage tax relief.

Coupled with the big stamp duty increase, it’s clear Oik Osborne (as he was known to his chums in the Bullingdon Club) wanted to protect wealthy landlords from tax increases and crucify those who simply aspire to being wealthy.

After all, the wealthiest landlords have already bought their properties (and therefore won’t be paying the new 3% stamp duty surcharge) and have already paid down their mortgages (and therefore won’t be denied tax relief on their interest costs).

As naive as I may be, however, I never truly believed Philip Hammer Hammond would reverse any of the unfair property tax changes introduced by his predecessor. Why? Because the simple truth is that the only people who feel sympathy for landlords these days are landlords themselves.

If you’ve been sitting on your hands, hoping and praying that these iniquitous tax changes will be reversed you should perhaps think twice.

In the end there were very few tax changes announced in the autumn Statement:

• Budgets. There will be a spring 2017 Budget but thereafter Budgets will be delivered in the autumn, with the first one taking place in autumn 2017.

• Tax thresholds. The Government remains committed to raising the personal allowance to £12,500 and the higher-rate threshold to £50,000 by 2020/21.

• National insurance alignment. From April 2017 the employer and employee national insurance thresholds will be aligned at £8,164.

• National insurance – self employed. Class 2 NICs will be abolished from April 2018 and benefit entitlement will be based on class 4 contributions.

• Termination payments. From April 2018 termination payments over £30,000, which are subject to income tax, will also be subject to employer NICs.

• Salary sacrifice. The tax and national insurance advantages of salary sacrifice schemes will be removed from April 2017, except for pensions, childcare, Cycle to Work and ultra-low emission cars. There is some protection for arrangements that are already in place.

• Pension contributions. The money purchase annual allowance will be reduced to £4,000 from April 2017. This is the amount you can save in a pension after you start withdrawing income.

• Corporation tax. The Government has confirmed that it will cut corporation tax to 17%by 2020. No further cuts were announced.

• Fuel duty. The fuel duty rate will remain frozen for the seventh successive year, apparently saving motorists around £130 a year.

• Employee shareholder status. The tax advantages will be abolished for arrangements entered into on or after 1 December.

• Non-resident companies. The government is considering making all non-resident companies that earn income in the UK pay corporation tax.

• Incorporation. It seems the Government wants to further erode the tax benefits enjoyed by company owners, although the details are sketchy so far:

“The OBR has today highlighted the growing cost to the Exchequer of incorporation. So the government will consider how we can ensure that the taxation of different ways of working is fair between different...


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