"Confidence is returning as landlords take action to limit the damage to their finances. The use of limited companies is soaring, and rents are increasing, even after one of the biggest surges in rental supply in recent history."
The latest report from Kent Reliance has shown that landlord confidence has bounced back following recent government intervention as investors look to secure mortgages through limited companies or increase rents in reaction to higher tax costs.
Landlords’ confidence is at its highest in a year, with 54% of investors confident over the prospects for their portfolios, according to a survey of 900 property investors, run in association with BDRC Continental. This is a marked recovery from the second quarter of the year, when confidence hit a record low (39%) as a direct result of higher stamp duty charges.
Property investors have taken action to mitigate the additional tax costs they will face when tax relief is lowered on mortgage interest payments for individuals. This has seen landlords increasingly turn towards incorporation, and borrowing through a company structure, where finance costs can still be offset against rental income. Kent Reliance’s analysis shows that there have already been more than 100,000 limited company loans issued in the first nine months of the year, double the total amount in the whole of 2015. Over 12,000 a month in the last quarter.
Demand for this type of arrangement is likely to intensify as the tax changes bite. 11% of landlords state they have already incorporated, or have moved holdings to a lower-rate-tax-paying spouse or partner to limit their tax exposure, while a further 25% are considering doing so; this alone would account for over half a million landlords nationwide making the move. Kent Reliance estimates limited company lending in 2016 could total 143,000 for the year as a whole, rising to 163,000 in 2017.
The forthcoming tax changes are also driving up rents. The average rent in Great Britain has hit a record high of £881 per month, despite the supply of rental property homes hitting an 18 month high in the period, a knock on effect of the rush to beat the stamp duty hike. Annual rental inflation slowed a little in the last quarter, but even so, rents still rose by 2.4%. With a growing tenant population, and rising rents, landlords in total are now collecting approximately £4.6bn in rent each month.
Rent rises are likely to accelerate in 2017. A third of landlords expected to increase rents in the next 6 months alone, by an average of 5.4% - equivalent £571 per year for households. Two thirds cite higher future taxes, and 43% the strength of tenant demand. Indeed, twice as many landlords are seeing an increase in tenant demand as the number seeing a decline. The recent budget announcement to ban letting fees, while providing a welcome reduction in tenants’ upfront costs, will see any additional costs for landlords factored into rents.
Extra pressure will also come from the Prudential Regulation Authority’s new underwriting standards, due for implementation next year; these will see landlords needing to demonstrate higher yields to secure finance, unless they can provide larger deposits. As a result, Kent Reliance forecasts that rents will rise by an average of 3% in 2017.
Growth in the number of households has moderated, growing at 5.4% in September compared to 5.5% in the first quarter, with 5.3million rented households in total. Combined with strong house price growth, the value of the PRS in Great Britain has risen to £1.3trn, with £174bn added since September 2016.
Andy Golding, Chief Executive of OneSavings Bank, had this to say: “Property investors have had to roll with punches in 2016. The stamp duty levy clearly took its toll on the market, and combined with the forthcoming tax changes, landlords have felt at the mercy of a political agenda. But confidence is returning as landlords take action to limit the damage to their finances. The use of limited companies is soaring, and rents are increasing, even after one of the biggest surges in rental supply in recent history.
There is still more to come for the buy to let sector next year. The PRA’s new underwriting standards are due to be implemented, the tax changes begin to take effect, and there is yet more potential intervention in the form of the FPC’s new powers. If the cumulative effect of constant change undermines the expansion of rental properties, this will simply exacerbate the housing crisis.
The raft of recent measures aimed at the buy to let sector singularly sought to increase home ownership levels. Ironically, they will achieve the opposite, with even greater upward pressure on rents combined with the prospect of declining real incomes likely to stretch affordability even further. We have warned all along that the tax changes will push up rents, and this is already starting to happen. The ban on often unjustifiably high letting fees is well intentioned. However, it also means landlords could pass higher costs onto tenants, doing little to bring down the overall cost of renting.
Only through a substantive and long-term building programme across all tenures will we see an end to escalating house prices and rents. The Chancellor has moved to provide more support for house building, but it is not yet enough to see the step-change in supply that we need.”