The number of buy-to-let landlords in mortgage arrears has hit a two-year high, according to new figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).
Number of Landlords in Mortgage Arrears at Two-Year High
Mortgage arrears among landlords rose by 6% – from 4,700 to 5,000 – between July and September last year. This was the first increase seen since records began two years ago.
Following a rush of buy-to-let activity early last year ahead of the introduction of the 3% Stamp Duty surcharge in April, fewer investors are now adding to their property portfolios.
But some experts fear that many landlords, especially those entering the buy-to-let sector for the first time, acted too hastily in acquiring property that they could not afford to avoid being hit by the higher tax on additional homes.
The Chief Executive of the National Landlords Association (NLA), Richard Lambert, believes: “Some first time landlords may have rushed in to the market ill-prepared to beat the Stamp Duty hike. Unless landlords begin to make plans to mitigate the impact of these changes, it’s likely that buy-to-let mortgage arrears will continue to rise.”
The increase in the number of landlords falling into mortgage arrears has led to concerns that thousands more investors could get into debt when they are hit by further tax changes in April this year.
The existing rules that allow landlords to offset all of their finance costs against tax will, from 6th April 2017, be phased out under Section 24 of the Finance Act 2016, restricting the amount of tax relief that landlords can claim on mortgage interest.
The NLA estimates that around 440,000 basic rate tax payers will be forced into the higher tax bracket from April, once the changes come into force.
By April 2020, when the change is fully implemented, the consequences of Section 24 will mean that it is likely that higher rate tax payers will only receive 50% of the relief they currently get, with various experts warning that landlords will be left with little alternative but to pass higher costs onto tenants.
And with the forthcoming ban on letting agent fees for tenants, it’s highly likely that landlords will be forced to put their rents up considerably, leaving many tenants struggling to afford a home.