landlords UK buy-to-let

Stigma around landlords needs to end to boost housing market

Buy-to-let landlords are often vilified in the media, and a new survey shows that some are even reluctant to call themselves “landlords” because of it.

The buy-to-let market is a crucial section of the UK housing industry. Around 4.4 million households – which equates to around 20% – are currently renting the property they inhabit.

The balance between renting and homeownership is often a focus of government policy, with multiple measures being set out to get people on the housing ladder. However, this focus, alongside factors such as additional taxes and legislation for landlords, has arguably led to an overall negative view of the industry for many.

Furthermore, the media often hones in on unfortunate cases and “rogue landlords” in the sector.

A landlord by any other name

In a survey by Mortgages for Business looking at attitudes in the buy-to-let community, 73% said that they felt they were unfairly portrayed as “this generation’s financial bogeyman”.

Interestingly, many in the sector have decided that they even want to shun the title “landlord”. Almost two thirds (59%) said that the term is now outdated. Apparently, the phrase “small housing provider” is the most popular alternative.

A further 21% said they’d rather be called something else, such as rental accommodation provider. Only a third (36%) are happy to still be referred to as a landlord.

Too much baggage

According to Gavin Richardson, managing director of Mortgages for Business, it is hardly surprising that the industry is looking to update its reputation.

“Sections of the media have vilified the buy-to-let community,” he says. “The government has hammered them – think Theresa May’s 3% stamp duty surcharge and other tax deterrents. It’s got to the point where the buy-to-let community doesn’t want to be associated with the term ‘landlord’ anymore. The term carries much more baggage than it once did.”

In fact, though, the Treasury reaps plenty of benefits from the private rented sector. The majority of landlords are paying 40% tax on their rental income, says Richardson.

Removing landlords would be detrimental

With first-time buyers now having to save around 113% of their annual salary to afford a property deposit, it would seem that despite the government’s “hammering” of the buy-to-let sector, the housing ladder is still difficult to get onto.

The rental market is therefore vital to house hundreds of thousands of young people saving to buy a home. As well as this, there are many who rent by choice into older age, or stay in the rental market for longer to ensure flexibility to pursue careers.

Richardson comments: “What would happen if we took landlords out of the housing equation? The impact on the property market would be significant and almost entirely negative. It’s not as if the government is pouring money into social housing – or making any progress on housebuilding.”

“Frankly, the government should be championing landlords and lauding their contribution to the housing sector – landlords are bailing the government out!”

Investing in a nest egg

There has been a major spike in the number of buy-to-let property purchases in the 60-64 age bracket, according to a recent report from Paragon Bank. Property investment in the age group grew by 52% between June 2020 and June 2021, which is more than in any other age demographic.

This increase in housing acquisition for people nearing retirement age is a clear indicator of the confidence still felt in the UK housing market. At present, with savings rates at historic lows and stock markets notoriously volatile, well-advised property investment is an asset that can reap the best rewards for owners.

According to Richardson, millions of Brits face financial crisis in retirement from not putting enough money into pensions.

He adds: “Two thirds of employees aged 45 and over face poverty in old age unless they act soon. One in five Britons say they have no form of private or workplace pension. It is regularly drummed into us that we need to invest for a comfortable retirement.

“And yet, when people start building a nest-egg – investing in property to try to ensure they have an income for their retirement – they are reviled!”

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