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Below is the full response from HM Treasury and Housing Minister,Gavin Barwell, to my MP Emma Reynolds who raised concerns on my behalf concerning Section 24 and the ban on Agents fees:
HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ
3 JAN 2017
Thank you for your email of 16 December enclosing correspondence from your constituent about financial cost relief for landlords.
Thank you for highlighting the report that was compiled regarding this measure. The report is extensive, but I will explain the Government ‘s position on some of the key aspects of it. The Government introduced this change in order to level the playing field between landlords and homeowners. Income tax relief for finance costs is not available to ordinary homebuyers. Therefore, by restricting finance cost relief to the basic rate of income tax, we are reducing the advantage landlords may have in the property market.
Income tax relief for finance costs is also not available to those investing in other assets, such as shares, therefore we are reducing the distortion between property investment and investment in other assets.
Currently, landlords get relief on their finance costs at their marginal rate of income tax. By restricting finance cost relief to the basic rate of income tax, all individual landlords will receive the same rate of income tax relief on their finance costs.
The report brings into question the assessment that only 1 in 5 landlords will be affected. I appreciate that this might not be the same conclusion reached by other commentators on the measure. However, this was calculated by HM Revenue and Customs using actual self-assessment data.
We appreciate that some of the landlords who will pay more tax as a result may have to make important decisions regarding their properties. In order to give landlords time to plan ahead of the changes, we are phasing the changes in over 4 years from April 2017.
The report also highlights case studies of how landlords may be affected. It is important to note that these are rare cases and do not reflect the circumstances of the majority of landlords. As explained above, we expect that only around 1 in 5 landlords will pay more tax as a result of the changes.
Given the small overall proportion of the housing market affected, we do not expect the changes to have a large impact on rent levels or house prices. The Office for Budget Responsibility also expect the impact on the housing market will be small.
The report claims that income tax changes made by the Irish Government in 1998 had an impact on rents. However, these changes are not comparable with those being introduced in the UK. Originally, the Irish Government abolished tax relief for finance costs altogether. The Irish Government since reintroduced the relief but placed a flat 75% cap on the amount of finance costs that attract tax relief. By comparison, in the UK the Government have retained tax relief for finance costs at the basic rate of income tax and all individual landlords will receive tax relief at the same rate, regardless of their level of income. This is to meet our policy objective of levelling the playing field.
Whilst most letting and managing agents provide a reputable service a minority of agents offer a poor service and engage in unacceptable practices. The Government is keen to see all tenants receiving a good service from their landlord and letting agent. That is why, since 1 October 2014, it has been a legal requirement for letting and managing agents in England to belong to one of the three Government approved redress schemes and that is also why we announced in the Autumn Statement a ban on up front letting agent fees paid by tenants in England. This will support better competition in the market and bring down overall costs. This will mean that tenants will be better able to search around for properties that suit their budget and there will be no hidden costs. This is preferable to tenants being hit with upfront charges that can be difficult for them to afford.
The Government will consult in due course on the detail of how best to implement a ban and will consider the views of property agencies, landlords, tenants and other stakeholders before introducing legislation. I would encourage your constituent to participate.
I hope this has helped explain the Government’s position on this policy. The Government will keep it under review, as it does with all tax policy, and it is certainly helpful to have seen the arguments and issues that have been raised.
Please pass on my thanks to Lyndon for taking the trouble to make us aware of these concerns.
Letter to Emma Reynolds MP House of Commons London from Gavin Barwell Minister of State for Housing Planning Department for Communities and Local Government
Email:firstname.lastname@example.org www.gov .uk/dclg
1 6 JAN 2017
Thank you for your email of 16 December on behalf of your constituent Lyndon about implications of Clause 24 and the banning of Letting Agent Fees.
I have noted Lyndon’s concerns. The Government recognises the important role that buy-to-let landlords play in the in the UK housing market and economy. At Summer Budget 2015, the Government set out a package of measures to reduce the budget deficit, rebalance the economy and make the tax system fairer .
By restricting finance cost relief to the basic rate of income tax, all finance costs incurred by individual landlords will be treated the same by the tax system and will reduce the distortion between property investment and investment in other assets. It will also reduce the advantage landlords may have (for example over first time buyers) in the property market. Landlords will continue to be able to claim income tax relief at their marginal rate on the day to-day costs incurred in letting out a property, such as letting agent fees and replacing furniture. Using actual self-assessment data, HMRC estimate that only 1 in 5 landlords will pay more tax as a result of this measure. Furthermore, this change is being introduced gradually from April 2017 over 4 years, ensuring landlords will have time to adjust and plan for this change.
I have also noted concerns about the Government’s announcement in the Autumn Statement to ban letting agent fees to tenants. Whilst most letting and managing agents provide a good service, a minority of agents offer a poor service and engage in unacceptable practices. Banning fees to tenants will support better competition in the market and bring down overall costs. The Department will consult ahead of bringing forward legislation.
I hope this helps to explain the actions Government is taking to bring balance and fairness to the house market.
GAVIN BARWELL MP
Dear Mr Barwell,
Thank you for your letter to my Constituency MP, Emma Reynolds, who recently raised some concerns, on my behalf, in relation to clause 24 Finance Act 2015 and the proposed ban on letting agent fees to tenants.
I am now in receipt of your reply to her and would like you to understand and consider the following points;
Let me begin by telling you about me and my family. I do this because I am probably very representative of many other buy to let landlords ( ‘landlords’ being the appropriate description, as opposed to ‘investors’!!), who feel absolutely let down and had their whole life plans potentially destroyed by a Conservative government!
I am from a very working class background in The Black Country, attending a local comprehensive school and being bought up by extremely hard working parents, who, against the difficulties of that time worked hard on the shop floor of factories and installed in their children, the values of hard work and non-reliance on the state.
I went on to enter the West Midlands Police Service and complete 30 years public service in that difficult job.
I have lived my life, working hard and looking after my wife and three children and planning for the future. I own my own house and 15 years ago I decided to take serious risks with the capital that I had saved up.
With much trepidation I entered the property industry, as a buy to let landlord. I risked the ‘family jewels’ with deposits and borrowed heavily (1.8 million. In total), in an effort to create a business that would support my family, both now and in retirement! I now own a portfolio of property locally and then went on to become a letting agent.
My children have all gone on to university and we as a family are no burden whatsoever on the state. We are all self-dependant and although this is changing, we are a typical CONSERVATIVE VOTING FAMILY!! I have voted Conservative at every election since 1979.
I am at this moment in time a member of the Conservative party, however, this is likely to change, as this party is about to be responsible for completely decimating my plans and security for my future.
Most BTL landlords that I encounter, who have used their own, hard worked for deposits and then borrowed to buy property, are natural Conservative voters. There are thousands of these disgruntled people across the country, who are turning their backs on your party in droves. They feel, as I do, that their plans and hard worked for aspirations are about to be ruined!
I have consistently provided good affordable housing for disadvantaged people and also a section of society, who would historically have lived in ‘council accommodation’. I have recently been recognised by my local council, Wolverhampton City Council, by being awarded their first ever 5 star grade, as both landlord and agent. This represents the highest standards in relation to their new and innovative accreditation scheme.
So I think I have now set the scene. Regardless of all the TV and negative media publicity, this is how the vast majority we landlords and agents operate.
All my life I have ‘done the right thing’ and now the rug is being pulled from beneath me by a CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT!!!
Now let me address the comments in your letter;
SECTION 24 FINNCE ACT 2015
I’ve been a first time buyer, we all have! I bought the house to live in and if after a
period of time I sell it and make a profit, I’m exempt from CGT.
Not so when I buy a BTL property and I’m fine with that.
Or who is it NOT going to hit?
You point out that the changes are being phased in over 4 years to allow for adjustment. The only room for adjustment is to either exit the market, creating homelessness, put rents up to unaffordable levels, or incorporate with all the added financial costs that that brings!
You are actually creating a situation whereby many higher rate tax payers, who have paid their income tax on the rental profit at 40%, year in year out, like me, are going to form limited companies and pay less tax. Why oh why would a CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT be doing that. Why are you going to force landlords to incorporate? That is the only logical adjustment, as you refer to, that can happen.
I’ve tried to remove myself from my landlord’s role and see the logic in what is happening and I cannot actually believe that a Government, that truly understands the implications would continue with it!!! It’s unbelievable!
Given all these points, and I acknowledge that others have set these out to the government in far more depth and with more eloquence than me, you are still set on course to continue with it. Perhaps you should at the very least, make some allowance for people whose plans are in place and not apply it retrospectively! Put it into place for new BTL purchases only.
Lastly, let me address the second issue raised;
PROPOSED BAN ON TENANT LETTING AGENT FEES.
I absolutely acknowledge that there are many rogue agents who in areas of extremely high demand for property, charge extortionate fees. My two daughters both rent in London and believe me I know! However, the moderate fees that most agents charge are realistic and are necessary to enable the agent to provide a good 24 hour service.
We are an agency, managing 300 properties. We offer 24 hour cover to the tenant and will assist in dealing with benefit claims etc. etc. All my staff are qualified in understanding the benefit system. They have been accredited locally by the Local Authority. These services will need to be cut if this ban is brought in.
There are many time wasters, who insist that they want a property and then back out at the last minute. Without the provision of some fees this will get worse.
I have calculated that the loss to our company will be in the region of £24k, which is someone’s job. These fees cannot realistically be passed onto the landlord, the competition is already high and this encourages lower charging agents to flourish. But these agents cannot provide the levels of service that a tenant deserves.
My feelings are that a blanket ban is the equivalent of using a broad brush to tackle a problem that is specific the certain areas and certain agents. Maybe, if you need to legislate, cap the fees?
Mr Barwell, I do hope that you will take my thoughts into consideration and I look forward to your considered response.
Landlord and Letting Agent
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