Lisa Simon, Partner and Head of Residential Lettings, offers a practical view on residential letting issues currently in the news.

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The start of April marked the first phase of new restrictions on tax relief for buy-to-let investors on residential property.

Under the new measures, first outlined by the Chancellor in the Summer Budget of 2015, tax relief on mortgage interest has been reduced to the basic rate of income tax.

While some buy-to-let investors feel that the revisions lack clarity, the change means that finance costs such as mortgage interest or interest on loans to buy furnishings will no longer be deductible in full to work out taxable property profits.

The restrictions operate by disallowing finance costs when calculating the taxable rental profit, and then introducing a tax credit equal to 20 per cent of the disallowed costs.

Phased in over four years, the full restrictions will not be felt until the tax year 2020/21, allowing a short period for investors to adjust. 

For 2017/18, investors will receive full relief on 75 per cent of mortgage interest, as per the old system, with the remaining 25 per cent subject to 20 per cent basic tax relief. For 2018/19, there will be a 50 per cent finance costs deduction and 50 per cent given as a basic tax reduction; for 2019/20 there will be a 25 per cent finance costs deduction and 75 per cent as a basic tax reduction, and from 2020 all interest will be restricted to 20 per cent relief.

Described as one of the most significant changes to the buy-to-let market in decades, the Chartered Institute of Taxation [CIOT] is urging landlords who no longer benefit from the relief against selling off portfolios, and instead to assess their options once the full restrictions are implemented in four years’ time. 

While many individual residential investors are still unclear about whether they are affected by the change, CIOT is urging all parties to exercise caution before assuming that they are exempt.

For any landlords who are unsure, please do contact your local Carter Jonas office, who can assist with any queries or put you in touch with a tax advisor.

Airbnb is a phenomenon of our age and, in January of this year, it was reported that over 4million people in London had used the service since launch in 2008. As the go-to website – or app – for a host of travellers, Airbnb provides a convenient solution for those seeking an alternative to a traditional hotel room.

In recent years, its ease of use has seen Airbnb broaden its reach beyond the hospitality sector and into the lettings market, and while this might seem like an optimum solution for short-term tenancies, it is also proving to be a challenge that the industry is yet to navigate.

A primary hurdle that has arisen for landlords is around subletting, and a growing number of landlords are launching possession proceedings against tenants who have sublet their property via sites such as Airbnb, without the requisite permissions. Tenants who do this without consent risk eviction for a breach of their assured shorthold tenancy agreement – but for some, this is a risk they are willing to take.

At the same time, if the rent is paid in full and on time, some landlords might be inclined to turn a blind eye to the practice. However, it is worth remembering that while it is an ARLA Property mark standard to vet tenants at the start of a contract with full references and credit checks, tenants are unlikely to do this on behalf of landlords for subtenants, creating risks for all parties.

Furthermore, while the tenant signing the contract might show up well on paper, they could be subletting to just about anybody, with no verification of their credentials whatsoever.

It goes without saying that in not knowing who precisely is occupying a property can be disastrous for landlords, with unpaid rent, bills and damage to a property.

As such, we do urge landlords to ensure that they enter into an up-to-date contract with their tenants, which legislates against subletting under any circumstances. This is a clause inbuilt to every Carter Jonas contract, but for independent landlords who operate without an agency, it is worth checking the wording of all tenancy agreements.

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Lisa Simon
MARLA
Partner - Head of Residential Division
0207 518 3234 email me about Lisa
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Lisa Simon heads up our Residential Division, which includes sales, new homes, lettings and property management across our National network. She joined Carter Jonas in 2011. Her twenty years plus experience has been largely in London and the Home Counties working with Landlords and Tenants. Lisa oversees the day to day running of our residential branches and acts as a key contact for some of our portfolio clients. She also runs our corporate services department liaising and promoting our properties to companies and their relocation agents. Lisa resides in West London with her husband and two daughters.

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