It wasn’t all that long ago that investment in buy-to-let property was seen as a straightforward way to generate an income for yourself. However, recent changes made by the government mean that turning a profit through buy-to-let in today’s property market is set to become much more difficult. Each case is individual, and the profitability of a property isn’t as simple as looking at the price of the property and the amount of rent it generates each month, but for many, buy-to-let will soon no longer be the attractive investment opportunity it once was.
So what has changed?
From the start of April 2017, the amount of tax relief that can be claimed by a landlord on the interest on their buy-to-let mortgage has fallen. Higher rate taxpayers used to be able to offset all of their mortgage interest against their rental income before they calculated how much tax they owed, but this year they will only be able to offset 75% of the interest. This percentage is then set to reduce again to 50% in 2018 and 25% in 2019. No interest at all will be eligible to be offset in 2020, with a 20% tax credit being introduced instead.
Not only does this mean that investors are set to face growing tax bills over the next few years, even if their income has not increased, but it also means that some taxpayers currently on the basic rate will be pushed into the higher rate tax bracket when their rental income is taken into account. It will also have an impact on means-tested benefits, with some set to lose out on these through the new system.
For existing landlords, there are options to soften the blow of the new tax arrangements. Some buy-to-let owners, particularly those in the priciest areas of the country, such as London, are selling their properties in order to reinvest in multiple properties elsewhere. As companies are not subject to the new tax laws, purchasing these properties through a company will prove to be a better choice financially even taking into account potential capital gains tax.
As residential mortgages are usually at a lower rate than buy-to-let mortgages, another option for landlords is to remortgage their main residence and use the money raised to reduce their buy-to-let mortgage. A buy-to-let offset mortgage is also possible, although this option will only be open to those who meet the eligibility criteria. However, the option that around two thirds of landlords have said they plan to go for is raising rent, with the average increase expected to be between 20% and 30%.