How will buy-to-let fare in 2017?

The Autumn Statement might seem like a distant memory, but the debate around banning lettings fees to tenants and passing these on to the landlord rages on.

The UK’s many landlords and buy-to-let investors have faced a number obstacles in 2016. From Osborne’s increase in Stamp Duty for second homes back in April, to the retraction of mortgage interest relief and additional powers for the Bank of England to restrict BTL lending – it seems our Government is determined to chip away at the rental market beneath the façade of looking out for tenants and making sure rental homes are more affordable. Ironically, all these measures are likely to result in increased rents and the potential exit of many landlords from the private rental sector which would reduce supply.

On a positive note, it was encouraging to see Philip Hammond’s commitment to increase housing supply with two dedicated funds for the provision of new and affordable homes in and outside London, as well as a £2.3 billion housing infrastructure fund designed to provide 100,000 new homes in areas where there is high demand. In 2017, we will, I hope, begin to see the fruits of this investment – it’s great news for those looking to buy and first-time buyers who will benefit from the allocation of affordable homes and increased supply generally. But why does growth and investment on one side of the market mean taking away from the other. Surely we can have strong and healthy sales and lettings markets existing side by side, indeed, we should aspire to offering buyers and tenants a wide variety of high quality homes to buy and rent, at a range of prices and rent levels.

The raft of measures against the rental market and buy-to-let landlords in recent months is of great concern. It is not only detrimental to landlords, but, and perhaps more importantly, to tenants. Although increased taxes, restrictions on lending and increased lettings fees for landlords have been announced under the banner of ‘helping tenants and making renting more affordable’, they will only serve to raise rents, push some landlords to sell and so reduce the amount of rental stock available and restrict the quality of service tenants receive – many of whom choose to rent for various reasons such as wanting to live in a particular area or having greater flexibility to move quickly and easily for work.

Let’s hope UK landlords can find a way to make things work in 2017, and that there are no more surprises round the corner from a Government which seems determined to make life difficult for landlords and tenants alike.

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