Do you own a rental property in Wales?

Unlicensed Landlords with properties in Wales could now be ‘Breaking the Law’ and they are being urged to register ‘to avoid legal action’, regardless of where they are based in the UK. rent-smart-wales

Many private landlords could face fines and possibly even prosecution for failing to sign up to the new registration and licensing system in Wales. In addition, landlords may not be able to secure possession of their property using a section 21 notice, if they are operating outside the law themselves.

Almost six months have passed since the Welsh government’s Rent Smart Wales scheme became law, as part of the Housing Act (Wales) 2014 however it is estimated that thousands of private landlords with homes in Wales have still not signed up to the scheme, which could mean that they are letting out properties illegally.

Read more here

 

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Energy Efficiency in Your Rental Property

Over the next year Landlords are urged to check the Energy Efficiency of their rental properties with a view to improving older properties with standards below an E. This is because from the 1st April 2018 it will be illegal to let a property or renew an existing lease on any property with a rating of below an E.

Energy Performance Certificates or EPC’s as they are known, are well known certificates that are required by anyone looking to sell or rent out their property, but the new changes to legislation will mean that older properties with poor ratings will need to be improved if you are going to continue to let them. It has taken many years for people to fully understand what EPC’s are and when a property needs one and now there are more changes afoot!

From the 1st April 2020 the regulations will also apply to existing tenancies so either way, it would be a good idea for Landlords across the UK to start examining the energy performance of their properties.

Check out this article from Residential Landlord, who have shared some good ideas on how to improve the rating of your property (and it is not as expensive as you may think!)

https://residentiallandlord.com/landlords-energy-efficiency-rental-property/

 

Is holding your buy-to-let property in a “Hybrid Structure” the way to go?

As of the 6th April 2017, Landlords will no longer be able to deduct all of their finance costs from their property income to arrive at their profits. Instead, they will receive a basic rate reduction from their income tax liability for their finance costs.

What does this mean for my profit?

It’s difficult to say how much more tax would be due as the reduction in mortgage interest and wear and tear allowances come to bear, but it will certainly be a hit for higher-rate tax payers. If you don’t have a mortgage or if you’re a lower rate payer, good news: you will not be affected at all.

So what are my options if I’m a higher rate taxpayer?

We recently attended an interesting talk by Tony Gimple from Less Tax For Landlords, who said, in practical terms, landlords now have four options – including holding your property in a “Hybrid Structure”. We’ve listed the options he gave for you below – and also included some FAQs at the end of the article.

  1. Sell up

The first option is to sell up and either invest your money elsewhere, save it or spend it. Yes you will have to take the Capital Gains Tax hit and mortgage penalties (if there are any), but if you are thinking of retiring anyway this could be an option.

This isn’t something that the majority of landlords will want to do right now however, as though the market is suffering a post-Brexit slump, property is still a very good bet. As we recently blogged, when compared to other asset classes, property is definitely the best vehicle for achieving wealth.

  1. Make a positive decision to do nothing

Option two is to do nothing. This will be a default decision for the majority – which is absolutely fine so long as you have explored the different options available to you and are aware of how you’ll be affected by the new tax changes.

This option will most likely mean however that your tax bill is increased and your disposable income is decreased, but it will not severely affect those with only one or two properties.

  1. Incorporate

The much touted “only way to get over Section 24”: sell your personally held investment property or properties to a limited company which you own.

Tony made it crystal clear that he doesn’t think that full incorporation, or incorporating temporarily through a Limited Liability Partnership is the best move, and we’ll explain why in the next couple of sections.

Likewise, he said that trusts are also not an effective solution, and their use for property is far more limited that it used to be. They are over-complex, especially when it comes to mortgage flexibility and inheritance tax mitigation, and generally not the best option for landlords.

What’s Section 162 Incorporation Relief?

Section 162 incorporation is available to help negate the requirement to pay Capital Gains Tax or Stamp Duty when transferring existing personally held investment properties into a limited company. You can only claim S162 if you’re ‘working in the business’, or as Tony put it, dealing with tenants and toilets yourself!

The pitfalls…

However, Tony went on to say that there are more downfalls than pros to incorporating.

Companies are great if you’re selling the whole company, as the buyer doesn’t pay stamp duty on the individual assets, only on the shares at 0.5%. If you’re disposing of individual properties, you’ve still got to pay the equivalent of Capital Gains Tax, but in this case it will be Corporation Tax which is slightly lower. A negative is that you may require the lender’s consent to use your loan account, and if they lose their lending appetite, you’ll need a new company and a new lender for every new property!

The big problem with limited companies however is getting your money out. In fact, Tony said it’s virtually impossible to take the money out of a company without paying tax at every turn, which often results in double taxation – Corporation Tax, Dividend Tax, Income Tax, National Insurance – and if it’s an investment company, 100% subject to Inheritance Tax.

  1. The Hybrid

The final option Tony gave was “The Hybrid”, which he described as ‘truly running your portfolio as a property business whilst at the same time reducing tax leakage to the legal minimum.’

This option means holding your current or future investment properties through a Personal Ownership / Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) and Limited Company mix – a recognised corporate structure.

Tony said that owning investment property this way generally offers the most balanced solution as it allows you to legally separate ownership from enjoyment from control via multiple legal personalities, so as to minimise tax insofar as the law allows and keep as much profit and legally possible. You also will not suffer the loss of mortgage interest relief or wear and tear allowances, plus tax from your property income at 20% maximum.

There were a few questions from the floor:

If I go down the hybrid route do I have to tell Land Registry?

“No – because there’s no change of title. You don’t even need to tell the lenders as there’s no fundamental breach of mortgage conditions – the lending remains in your name. We’re not using beneficial interest company trusts, it’s perfectly acceptable.”

When it comes to LLP, how do you differentiate between distribution profit and return of capital?

“It’s what you decide to call it. With LLPs or a partnerships generally, you’re allowed to once a year say we’ll distribute profit, or this year we’ll return capital. It’s up to you. The law allows you to call it either, just one will pay tax on it and one you won’t. Sometimes you will want to pay tax on it. Why? Because in two years’ time when I want to build that house and borrow a million and a half quid in my name, I’ve got to show a lender a SA302 to say that I can afford it and that it’s my money not my businesses.”

Would you have to pay Capital Gains Tax or Stamp Duty?

“In broad terms, CGT and SDLT would only arise if there were a change of title, i.e. the owner (Bill Bloggs) transfers the ownership to another legal personality (Bill Bloggs Property Holdings Limited).  As in the case of hybrid arrangements there is no change in title (Bill Bloggs still owns them), CGT and SDLT events do not occur.”

So what should you do?

Unfortunately, there’s not one right answer. If you’ve got one or a couple of properties and you’re a higher rate taxpayer, you’re going to feel a little sting from the new tax changes. But is it probably not worth getting into something complex. Instead, a better idea may be to cut your interest costs by re-mortgaging and getting an up to date rental valuation on your property. Your lender will therefore have to recalculate your LTV, and a lower LTV generally ensures a better interest rate and a larger selection of lenders.

If however you are a seasoned landlord or you want to make a positive decision to run a highly tax-efficient, professional property business, then Tony suggested you may need to start looking at how you’re going to structure it.

We strongly advise you seek independent professional tax advice before getting involved in any schemes or structures.

This Article is courtesy of Portico London Estate Agents

65% of students ‘live in squalor’ due to Landlord neglect

Student advice site Save the Student asked 2,095 students to reveal the realities of living in rented accommodation around the UK. The results are pretty grim.

  • Almost 50% of students say their accommodation suffers from damp
  • 42% left without any running water
  • 26% are lumbered with unwanted guests including rats, slugs and bed bugs
  • … yet 1 in 4 reported problems are never resolved by landlords
  • EXTRA: Halls of shame – ten instances when student accommodation totally sucked

The cliché of students living in squalor may be closer to the mark than you think: two-thirds of them are paying through the nose for ‘horror homes’ more suited to rats than renters, Save the Student has found.

The National Student Accommodation Survey 2017 reveals students around the UK pay an average deposit of just under £300 each to secure a place to live, with 80% coughing up for fees as well.

Many have to pay a month or whole term’s rent – that’s anything from £500 to thousands of pounds – in advance. This means that students are being asked to put down big money for accommodation even before their first loan instalment comes in at the start of the year, putting pressure on budgets (and the Bank of Mum and Dad).

Paying more rent and upfront costs DOESN’T guarantee students an easier ride, either. The majority (65%) experience serious housing issues, including rodents, bed bugs, damp, inappropriate landlord visits and security concerns.

Claudia, a 2nd-year student in Yorkshire, lives in university accommodation. She says:

“[My] bedroom would get extremely damp and I would have a build up of mould … I can only have my bed positioned against that damp wall since the room is too small to switch things around. I bought a small dehumidifier (one I could afford) and would clean up the wall regularly … I did call the university in the first semester. They just recommended to leave the window open (which I always do) and not to dry clothes on the radiator (which I don’t). Then they said they’ll send someone over to have a look at it but no one ever did.”

NHS advice states that “if you have damp and mould you’re more likely to have respiratory problems, respiratory infections, allergies or asthma” – yet Claudia is just one of hundreds of students going without help from their landlords.

3rd-year Bryony adds:

“I am asthmatic and it was [damp] in the bedroom. Landlord simply refused to get it looked at.”

In fact, although half of those who reported housing issues said they were sorted within a week, 22% said it took a month – and 25% said their problem was never resolved.

One 3rd-year student in the East Midlands comments:

“We struggled to lock our front door and they didn’t come until two days later. Our house was not secure and they just kept saying they would send someone out but they never turned up.”

Other complaints include a gas leak being repeatedly shrugged off by the landlord; noisy neighbours; and agents, maintenance staff or landlords walking into houses (and even bedrooms) without warning.

Jake Butler, Save the Student Editor, comments:

“People tend to think that living in substandard conditions is just part of being a student, but it’s time we realised it simply isn’t acceptable, especially when many students and their parents are shelling out plenty of money.

We hear from stressed out students with housing issues pretty much daily. Far too many landlords and even university accommodation providers will just shrug off major issues. And who can they turn to when that happens? There should be more obvious support available to students for matters like this.”

Halls of Shame

Ten times student accommodation totally sucked.

We asked students to name-and-shame the worst aspects of rented accommodation. Here’s what they told us in their own words:

  1. Slugs in our kitchen on our plates.
  2. The shower drains out to the back of the house … at some point a frog got wedged in the drain and died. So whenever you had a shower, the smell of sewage and death stunk out the bathroom. This got resolved after 3 visits from the landlord and a month of waiting.
  3. Landlord handing out our key to other estate agents without telling us so that we get unexpected visit from a complete stranger claiming to be working with landlord. When we asked landlord to tell us next time he made threats saying that he doesn’t need our permission to let strangers into our home and that if we don’t cooperate he won’t fix the broken pipes and damp in our house.
  4. Mould in bedrooms and shower areas, broken front door lock, a backyard that rats would avoid and general hell.
  5. Millipede infestation in the bathroom following a flood from exploding radiator which wasn’t fixed for over a month.
  6. No hot water for 5 days in the middle of winter. Also we had no shower for two weeks. Landlord was abysmal in sorting it.
  7. Being fined £45 after accommodation tried to take my rent out of my bank early and could not access it.
  8. 1 hour heating per day for 40 days, even after several emails, reports, calls and in-person visits. Ridiculous!! In the north east!! It was winter!!
  9. Not feeling safe when people could get into our accommodation without any ID or a fob. They came and smashed up our ceilings in the corridors and switched off all my electrics and water.
  10. Maggots in sofa.

Source: National Student Accommodation Survey 2017, savethestudent.org

About Save the Student (www.savethestudent.org): free, impartial money advice for students

Written by students and recent graduates, Save the Student aims to get you clued-up about cash and in less debt. Featuring the kind of straight-talking advice you won’t get at school, the site has everything you need to know about managing money without the migraines: student finance explained, banking & budgeting, insider info on careers and making extra cash, plus ways to save and scrimp without the stress.

Save the Student was founded in 2007 by Owen Burek during his first year at The University of Manchester. Created in response to the growing costs of higher education, the site is now the leading student money website in the UK, serving 2.5m visits a month.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/savethestudent

Twitter: https://twitter.com/savethestudent

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How will Article 50 affect London’s property market?

Mark Lawrinson, Regional Sales Director of Portico London estate agents, has spoken out about the possible effects of Brexit on the London housing market, saying, “I don’t think the triggering of Article 50 will affect the property market directly from yesterdays announcement. In one sense it removes the uncertainty surrounding when Britain’s withdrawal process from the EU will start, but in another way it will create economic uncertainty until we know what deal we will strike and therefore what Brexit actually means for our country.

Mark continues, “Brexit will no doubt mean a turbulent two years for the London and UK market as we begin to hear what negotiations and proposed deals are being put forward for our exit of Europe and the single market. I think we will see a continued slowdown or lethargic London market when it comes to sales volumes, and as we reported toward the end of last year, transaction volumes across London are already more than half of what they were before the 2008 crash.

London has a significant part to play in businesses who trade and operate across Europe and the world, and a buoyant property market relies on the UK’s economic health. If Brexit negotiations go well this could cause further price growth as the economy grows and we see the nation’s confidence lifted, but equally, if a good deal isn’t reached then the international companies who operate here or look to relocate here might change their minds, reducing the number of residents who live in the capital and again further reducing the transaction levels, which could ultimately lead to price decreases.”

It’s therefore important that you make property decisions based on your personal situation and what you want to do, rather than gambling on how the market will play out.

Robert Nichols, Portico’s Managing Director, makes an important point, stating, “Right now we may experience some uncertainty, but as the negotiations progress, we will regain some much needed stability into the housing market, as people realise that the effects of Brexit are not catastrophic and go on with their lives. We’ll hopefully see transaction levels increase as a result, which are currently dangerously low and affecting price growth across the capital.

He continues, “Yesterday’s events are likely to have a much more profound effect on foreign investment however, with the weakening pound expected to fuel demand from overseas buyers and investors.”

Many are also speculating that yesterday’s events will mean that the Bank of England will be hesitant to increase their interest rates, in spite of the recent inflation increase. This will it will remain cheaper than ever to borrow and get on to the property ladder.

Many are also speculating that today’s events will mean that the Bank of England will be hesitant to increase their interest rates, in spite of the recent inflation increase. This will it will remain cheaper than ever to borrow and get on to the property ladder.

Article kindly provided by Portico, who are a residential estate agent with offices throughout London, specialising in flats and properties to rent and for sale. For landlords, they offer a range of unique packages which include monthly fees, a rental guarantee, complimentary maintenance between tenancies and assistance with tax return. For property sellers, they offer a dedicated property concierge and a complimentary interior styling service.

Please call 020 7428 5310 if Portico can assist you and your property portfolio.

Discount Landlord launches key insurance scheme

Discount Landlord has recently launched a new key insurance scheme for both its landlord and home insurance brands. The broker has partnered with Keycare, the UK’s leading expert in the recovery of lost and stolen keys, to be its exclusive provider of key insurance.

The policy offers its landlord customers the chance to protect both their and their tenants’ keys for just £19.99 per annum.

Benefits of Keys2Let Insurance include:

  • Peace-of-mind cover for up to £1,500 for replacement of any lost or stolen keys, including call out charges and costs
  • Quick access to help and support via a 24-hour assistance line
  • A nationwide network of locksmiths delivering a quick, reliable, high-quality service
  • A white labelled branded key fob, which offers a £10 reward for finders. The branded fobs generate up to a 40% recovery rate for lost or stolen keys.

Steve Verrall, Director of Discount Landlord, comments: “Losing your keys can cause great anxiety and inconvenience, so the peace of mind that this cover offers is significant. We chose Keycare as the insurance provider because of their experience and knowledge working for the likes of Endsleigh and for their knowledge of insurance in the buy to let sector. They also have a reputation for exceptional claims and customer service.”

David Robertson, CEO of Keycare, adds: “Whether you are the person living at a property or a landlord, the inconvenience and anxiety of losing the keys to your property are immeasurable, but the cost alone is reason enough to see the value in key insurance. The average cost of a locksmith call out and replacement today is often more than £228, and given that nearly half (40 per cent) of us have lost our keys in the last five years, we know that customers value our product very highly. It’s a relatively low-cost way for insurers and brokers like Discount Insurance to improve customer loyalty and goodwill.”

For further information on this new product please contact:

Discount Landlord on 0800 294 4522

Average Londoner Earns Over £100 a Day from Airbnb

The average 2 bedroom London property rented through Airbnb generates £106 a day (excluding the cleaning fee), according to Portico estate agents who have recently launched a premium Airbnb management service.

Average Airbnb day rates range from the most expensive at £224 a day in Westminster to a reasonable £65 a day in Bexley.

The average 2 bedroom London property at £106 a day would produce a healthy monthly income of £2,226 on a 70% occupancy rate, which is the minimum occupancy the agents say they expect to achieve.

In fact, the agent states that some properties can achieve up to an 80% occupancy, plus they expect Airbnb listings to receive a booking within 1 week so Hosts can start earning immediately.

When compared to the average monthly rent for a two bedroom property in London on a long-term let (£1,777), there’s a huge £449 a month difference.

The below graphs show the estimated average Airbnb day rate for a 2 bedroom property per London borough, and the number of active hosts per borough.

air-bnb-1

air bnb 2.jpg

 *Portico rental data January 2017 (based on two bedroom properties and a 70% occupancy rate).

Westminster is the borough with the highest number of active listings at 5,631, closely followed by centrally located Tower Hamlets with 5,076 listings, and trendy Hackney with 3,572 active listings.

Brent (£99) and Newham (£95) also stand out for having a lot of active users considering their Zone 3 locations. This can be put down to the fact that Brent’s most famous feature is the legendary Wembley Stadium; similarly, Newham is extremely popular with Airbnb guests who want to be close to the Excel Exhibition Centre.

Merton is also in high demand as it’s home to Wimbledon. Currently there are only 642 active listings in the area and the average Airbnb day rate for a two bedroom property sits at reasonable £95 a night, but we expect the number of hosts and prices to rise dramatically with seasonal demand.

Robert Nichols, Managing Director, Portico, says:

 “Londoners in their thousands are turning to Airbnb as a way to generate extra income. And despite the 90 day limit, even seasoned landlords are coming round to the fact that a combination of Airbnb and traditional tenancy will maximise their return on investment.

If your property becomes vacant in the quieter months, we recommend listing your property on Airbnb and synchronising your tenancy to start a long-term let in the summer or late summer when demand from tenants and therefore prices are highest.

Or, if your property is already on the market, why not earn on Airbnb until you let or sell it? Every day it’s sitting vacant is potentially losing you money, so it really does pay to get on board with Airbnb in short-term.”

Discover the Airbnb value of your property!

Landlords: Refreshing The Way You Rent – Letproof.com

The past year has not been filled with the best news for UK Landlords; there have been an abundance of hurdles thrown in the direction of the buy-to-let Landlord and costs only seem to be rising.

Let’s begin with the tax changes; Buy-to-let landlords were hit with the announcement last year that their tax relief was being ‘phased out’ to mean now paying tax on their ‘turnover, rather than the difference between rental income and mortgage interest’ and this was expected to slow the buy-to-let market. April 2016 then saw landlords suffer a 3% increase on stamp duty. And earlier this year the Autumn Statement landed some great news for tenants and potential renters; there will be no more estate agent fees charged to tenants. This was, however, bad news for Landlords as it meant a high likelihood of them now footing the bill for these fees. But landlords are finding certain ways to deal with these changes, registering as a LTD company to lower taxes is one solution being utilised.

There is a need for change in the way buy-to-let landlords are able approach letting their properties. Cutting out any unnecessary fees and costs is becoming vital to ensure profits. Letproof.com has been built on this premise; to improve the experience for landlords and tenants, because while all of this signifies hard times, the market is still there for buy-to-let landlords. The demand for rental properties is high, partially as a result of a slight decrease in those investing in buy-to-let. However it is also largely due to the fact that renting is proving to be increasingly popular. Populations are rising and the trends and attitudes toward renting have changed. Renting has become a popular lifestyle choice, and popularity is predicted to continue.Happy friends meeting at cafe with laptop

The market is also looking up for buy-to-let investors, the build-to-let scheme offers fresh encouragement to rent and a whole new area of investment opportunities. London Rental yields are predicted to rise in the New Year. Despite seeing a significant decrease over the past 2 years, 2017 will experience the benefit of fewer buy-to-let landlords entering the arena this year and a high demand for rental properties continuing.

A change is needed in attitude and practice. Letproof.com is offering an alternative to the traditional practice of letting properties via an agent. Letproof.com is a platform enabling landlords and tenants to connect directly, without the middlemen. A new concept that gives both parties more control over their letting experience, fewer costs and offers support and flexibility.   The platform is free for tenants and starts from only 10p a day for landlords. By signing up, tenants are free to search for their perfect home, and via the direct messaging feature, can contact landlords about their favourite properties.letproof-logo

In changing times in the rental market, Letproof.com may be one way to ensure lower costs and more control over your buy-to-let investments.

For more information on Letproof visit their website http://www.letproof.com

 

Tax Changes and the Buy-to-Let Landlords

Over the next three years the amount of tax owed by many buy-to-let landlords will double or even triple as a direct result of the changes that are being phased in from April 2017. Landlords who have been enjoying four-figure net annual profits could sadly end up facing large losses – and it is thought that if interest rates rise, then this will make the situation even worse.

As a Landlord in the United Kingdom today, you can’t help but feel slightly battered by the Government and rather than being praised for helping to provide accommodation when there is clearly a shortage in the UK of decent housing, Landlords are being hit hard with tax changes and law changes.

If the Government keep demonising Landlords, we feel that more Landlords will have no choice but to sell up and invest their money else where and seeing as though the Government can not keep up with the demand for housing, it seems ludicrous that they insist on battering the Landlords, who are indeed only trying to help.

To read the article from the Guardian in full click here.