Landlord Tax Changes – I have a plan!

I’ve been silent for a while.  The main reason is that I’m really not sure which way to turn following recent government tax changes. Having digested lots of industry news via the excellent Property Tribes, Property 118Landlord Law  and The Property Hub (there are others but I only have so many hours in a day).  Mulling over the articles, comments and interviews it appears that, as mortgaged landlords, we’re about to become rather royally screwed. So why are they not screwing the landlords who don’t have mortgages??

Of course, this isn’t a recent announcement and I’ve been looking at our position carefully, examining the options, looking at the bright side as well as for that silver lining that I understand all clouds have.  The upshot is: the removal of the “wear and tear allowance” has increased our tax bill by £3000 this year. It will be increased again by a further £9,000 or more by 2020 (that’s £1000 a month!!) with the restriction on mortgage tax relief. It isn’t cost effective to become a limited company…. and the flat we’re about to buy is costing £3,000 more than if we bought it a year ago.  On top of that, the town is being swamped with rooms which look something akin to boutique hotels (complete with matching cushions and artfully placed books on a desk) and new landlords are charging as much monthly rent as a 2 bed flat commands, whilst their designer folly grips the market. They will hit reality soon enough though when someone throws up on the pale grey carpet.

So, what’s changed in the last few months?

  1. As letting agents, our business is steady and growing. Landlords haven’t rushed to sell their portfolios and our business model isn’t reliant on tenant fees – so all good there.
  2. As landlords, we have record low turnover in the HMOs as our rooms are now cheap compared to the new ones coming onto the market. Ok, so the curtains don’t match the bedspreads, and the furniture was chosen for durability rather than style, but really, what IS it with beautifully designed rooms?!?  I don’t get it. I must be turning into a dinosaur.
  3. We have now taken the decision to cease letting to any benefit tenants which is a great sadness to me. The last three evictions of state sponsored tenants have resulted in court costs, council interrogations and anti-social behaviour which caused misery to the remaining tenants.  When I started, I had a link into the council, we worked together as we both had the same goal in mind – to house someone who needed it.  I’m now met by a firewall of an email system, no named person to help get the claim underway and no way out if the tenant fails to behave or fails to pay.
  4. The flat we are about to buy is a no-brainer as we already hold the freehold and the maisonette above, and will then own the whole building. We were raising £100,000 using part mortgage and part further advance from another property, as we’re still recovering from January’s tax bill.  Despite having excellent credit ratings, a healthy income, a portfolio in good health and having never missed a payment, we are being refused on the basis that the mortgage company believe we want to use the money to sustain our letting agency!  This is incredulous, unless my husband is planning on buying a new, younger administrator and a Maserati in which to drive her around.
  5. On top of this purchase, we now need to pay 3% of the purchase price to the Government even though the flat isn’t in the Stamp Duty bracket.

Is it enough to throw in the towel?  Almost, but not yet.  Although I do have a plan B: from May 2017 the Government are opening up apprenticeships to ALL ages, not just 16-19 year olds so you may find me working my way up the corporate ladder with sickness benefits, a company car, paid annual leave, and a share option scheme, where I may just replace the extra £1,000 a month tax payment I need to pay by the time my pension kicks in. Only to discover the government have taken that too!

 

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Filed under being a landlord, Landlord tax

Tenants Feel Traded

Four people have come to us this week angry and desperate – all facing eviction due to their landlords’ circumstances changing.

I sat with one in a café where he worked.  He’d been given a few hours to move and the agent was rehoming his belongings into another house as we spoke; another who had been given 24 hours notice but didn’t know why; a young lady who I met on a course and whose landlord had neglected the flat for so many years that he decided to sell rather than repair; and another lady with 3 children whose landlord was returning from abroad.

All the circumstances leading to this point in their lives differed but brought about the same feeling – anger, dismay and trying to cope with life and work whilst dealing with an unknown future.  They also all said they felt as though they had been “traded” like commodities, disposed of as they no longer suited their landlord.

I’m pragmatic, believe change is good and you can’t have it your own way all of the time.  Sometimes life bites you on the bum and you have adjust to whatever is thrown at you, but that’s easy to say when you have a safety net, good credit history, flexible work and no requirement for a support network.  All of the above cases are economic migrants or in receipt of housing benefit – re-establishing their equilibrium will take a while.  They’re not stupid, illegal, immoral or prone to criminality – just a whim to someone else’s change of mind.

But, hey, I’m not innocent in all of this – one of my single mums’ has been told that, under the benefit cap, her rent allowance will reduce from £115 pw to £25pw in two months’ and saw no reason that I shouldn’t accept this drop.  The agents (if you need a fantastic, reasonably priced agent in Sunderland or Newcastle, email me) have carried out an income/expenditure sheet with her, and her Child Tax Credit and Income Support along with the new Housing Benefit are plenty enough for her to stay in the property but she’s adamant that it’s not her issue.

Wednesday found me collecting a tenant with toothache outside of a doctor’s who had refused to see him.  He’d been to the doctor as he has a heart complaint and his Romanian doctor had advised seeing the doctor before the dentist so the drugs required for dental surgery didn’t kill him.  We spent an hour finding a doctor willing to take on new patients and explaining the difference between private and NHS dentists.  He’s a lawyer in Romania and a carer in the UK and found our healthcare system incomprehensible.

So it’s a complicated new world we’re heading into (or always been in?) in terms of solving the housing crisis.  I thought I had some answers but I don’t except, landlords, keep your noses clean, don’t be greedy, help your good tenants, cast off ANYONE taking advantage of your good nature and maintain your integrity.  If you can do all this you are unlikely to become outrageously rich through renting property.  If these values are too much, you can always follow the Trump methodology of business.

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Filed under Future of HMOs

Stupid Conversations

Any job dealing with the general public puts you in the firing line of negative communication – unfortunately, 90% of it is beyond daft and probably 10% has any validity which you can work with.

Here are some recent gems:

1. Prospective Tenant

Me:  Why do you want to live in a room?

Tenant: I’m working for Easyjet and buying them 80 planes this month and the Government owes me £1m when I invoice them.  I’m also going to buy 1000 Continue reading

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Filed under being a landlord, Management of an HMO

HMO Landlady Breaks Her Silence!

So far I’ve kept quiet about all the new tax and HMO minimum requirement legislations our “Dear Leaders” are proposing to throw at landlords over the next few years – I suppose if I didn’t give it any attention, they’d see sense, it would all go away and I wouldn’t look like an idiot for commenting.

It clearly isn’t going away so I’m now going to voice my opinions in a vague attempt to stick up for myself and other landlords who have contacted me for advice over the last few months.

Social Tenants

What next for housing benefit tenants, sorry, local housing allowance, no that’s not it, universal credit recipients?

I genuinely don’t mind how a tenant is funded providing Continue reading

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Thank You HMCTS!!

Now, I’m not all that great with technology – my website needs updating, my social media presence is non existent and Facebook flabbergasts me.  However, I have just discovered a fantastic link to complete eviction forms which I believe must have been developed just for me.

Ten years’ ago I unknowingly evicted a tenant illegally which brought forth the wrath of the council, their solicitors, Citizens Advice and some bloke working for a homeless charity who threatened in no uncertain terms to “sort me out”.  It wasn’t a great experience especially as the tenant was found half dead and naked, I’d had to give him the kiss of life which turned out to be more of a peck of derision, AND visited him in hospital with grapes.

From then on, Continue reading

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No One Likes A Bed Bug

But they liked John – a lot.  John has been a faithful, landlord-fearing, regular paying tenant for 10 years.  He keeps himself to himself and, whilst I’ve been aware of his limitations we keep pretty much out of each other’s way.  He fills his time collecting supermarket trolleys, putting out the bins and filling the garden with scary looking 3ft high gnomes.  His other activities raise a few eyebrows but nothing which breaks the law.

We’ve been trying to control an outbreak of bed bugs for a few months in a room next to his, but every treatment seemed to stop working after a couple of months.  After a bit of surreptitious detective work, we found the bugs’ headquarters in John’s room – in his mattress, his chair, his sofa and even his childhood teddy bear.  They had stopped being discreet by only coming out at night and had gone into full on party mode as soon as they sensed a human food source nearby.

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I’m not going to go into the science behind bedbugs or how to treat them as I’ve recently covered this in an article for HMO Magazine. Click on the link and the next issue is out soon.

John was devastated and genuinely had no idea he was their host.  Continue reading

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Filed under Management of an HMO, Tenant Stories

You Have To Be Tough To Be A Landlord

Ok, so being a landlord is hardly a profession which requires a degree or other formal qualifications.  We’re not going to save lives with our medical expertise or improve the world with great engineering feats.  However, every day, in our small world, we deal with good tenants, clever tenants, unbelievably daft tenants and downright manipulative, difficult tenants.

Being a landlord and letting agent is a 24/7 profession – you can turn the phone off or not look at your email, but your customers are human and your product can fail or leak outside of the 9-5, Monday to Friday.   This blog was set up as a form of personal therapy to let off steam and encourage would be HMO landlords to think twice.  Faithful to its origin, here’s a rant of the week so far: Continue reading

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