Toby was always being told by his friends that you couldn’t go wrong with owning and renting property out. Whether you gambled a bit as a buy to let landlord or were lucky enough to inherit some family units, it must be a recipe for printing money. A particular friend would bang on about that. Like everything in life, things aren’t always as they seem.
Over the last few years, there has been a clear attempt to put the one or two property-owning landlord off the whole business proposition. It has become more time-consuming, more taken up by red tape and less profitable. Everything has been skewed so that only bigger landlords can afford all of this.
There are two aspects to it all. What the UK government and local authorities have actually done to make life tougher for small landlords. And then there is what they threaten to do via their shrill mouthpieces in the tabloid press and various “consultations” that they undertake.
Many local authorities, at the behest of government, have brought in measures requiring various categories of landlord to acquire licences in order to even be allowed to let their properties. Sometimes it takes the form of a basic licence with forms filled out and a fee paid. In some situations, the forms and fee follow once the property has been made fit to pass an inspection of minimum standards required for that class of letting. On occasion, it is a borough-wide requirement whereas, with some local authorities, they target wards that tend to have more lower level letting that is prone, supposedly, to more landlords shirking their property maintenance responsibilities. In North London, Enfield Council has done just this; requiring all landlords, whatever their situation in the wards on the Eastern, Lea Valley side, to have a licence. Also in North London, Haringey deems you to need a licence if you let a property with shared kitchen, bathroom and living room to people from multiple households but this is across the whole borough.
Next, the taxes paid by landlords have been ramped up by the removal of various tax exemptions and changes to what can be claimed against tax.
Void periods, where you can’t find tenants are not treated so favourably either. Once upon a time… Now, they are on your back, it seems like seconds after your tenants have moved out, for their council tax payments and the empty property discount is hardly generous either.
And, as if all the changes in recent years aren’t enough, they plant scare stories in the Daily Mail that terrify newbie landlords and fuel resentment of those who have managed to get a foot on the rung, buy-to-let-wise.