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Landlords relieved as buy-to-let avoids becoming a Budget 'whipping boy' again, but tax breaks for longer-term tenancies fail to arrive
- Landlords avoided a further tax clampdown in the Budget
- They have already seen a reduction in the tax relief they can claim
- Chancellor is looking at how to encourage landlords to offer longer tenancies
Landlords breathed a sigh of relief as fears of another Budget tax raid proved unfounded – with the only buy-to-let reference a pledge to look into longer-term tenancies.
Rather than announce more punitive tax measures, Philip Hammond revealed government plans to review whether landlords should be offered 'incentives' to give tenants the option to lock in to tenancy agreements for more than 12 months – but he failed to be specific about what form these could take.
Tim Walford-Fitzgerald, private client tax partner at the chartered accountants HW Fisher & Company, said: 'Buy-to-let landlords could be forgiven for pinching themselves. For once they've not been the whipping boys of a Budget.'
The Chancellor has announced a consultation into how landlords could be encouraged to offer longer tenancies
The Government is keen to help tenants and one way of doing so is offering them greater security through longer-term tenancies.
The Chancellor said: 'We will launch a consultation on barriers to longer tenancies in the private rented sector, and how we might encourage landlords to offer them to those tenants who want the extra security.'
The Chancellor did not add any further details about how landlords could be encouraged to offer such deals, including whether this would include tax incentives.
The Budget announcement follows the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid indicating in his Conservative party conference speech earlier this year that more details about tax incentives for landlords offering longer tenancies would arrive in today's Budget.
Some experts criticised the Chancellor for failing to address calls for tax incentives for landlords.
Some are supportive of longer-term tenancies being combined with tax incentives to those who offer them, such as reversing some of the cuts to mortgage interest tax relief for buy-to-let.
But they have also called for new housing courts, which would speed up the time it currently takes for a landlord to evict a tenant – one of the main concerns that landlords have about offering longer-term deals.
David Smith, of the Residential Landlords Association, said: 'Today's Budget could have acted on proposals to provide tax relief for landlords prepared to do offer longer tenancies and taking action against mortgage lenders who block them being granted.
'Instead we have yet another consultation adding to the 15 already ongoing which relate to the private rented sector. Tenants cannot live in consultations.'
The amount of tax relief that landlords can claim is already being reduced over four years until 2020 and replaced with a 20 per cent tax credit – a deeply unpopular measure hitting landlords' pockets hard.
David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark – the trade body for the lettings industry – said reversing these tax relief cuts for landlords offering longer-term deals would act as a significant incentive to give tenants more security of tenure.
Industry experts are generally supportive of longer-term tenancies being combined with tax incentives to those who offer them.
But they say this should only be introduced alongside new housing courts, which would speed up the time it currently takes for a landlord to evict a tenant – one of the main concerns that landlords have about offering longer-term deals.
Landlords avoided being the 'whipping boys' of the Budget this time around
Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent, said: 'It is good news that the Chancellor did not increase the rate of tax on buy-to-let investors.
'This would have had a detrimental effect on the supply of affordable property to rent as investors have been in retreat for some time.'
Angus Stewart, of mortgage brokers Property Master, said: 'The thumbscrews are still on as far as private landlords and the buy-to-let sector are concerned but at least they haven't been tightened still further.'