private rented sector housing

Government needs to up its private rented sector support

Helping landlords and tenants in the private rented sector through the cost of living crisis should be a priority for the new prime minister.

In a stroke of good news for mortgage-holders across the country, a number of experts expect fixed rate mortgage rates to drop down slightly over the coming weeks, after climbing swiftly in response to – and anticipation of – base rate rises.

The Bank of England‘s move last week to up the base rate to by 0.75% to 3% was not a surprise to most in the industry, but many lenders have already begun to pull rates back down again and become more competitive for borrowers.

While this provides a more promising outlook for property investors operating within the country’s private rented sector, Jeni Browne, director of Mortgages for Business which works in the buy-to-let space, believes that it is imperative for the government to take action to help the sector.

Clear guidance needed in private rented sector

The stamp duty overhaul that was revealed in September’s mini-budget was one of the measures that remained in place through the leadership and chancellor swap-over. It is a move that is expected to support the housing market in the long-term, despite many arguing it will be offset by rising mortgage costs.

But in the private rented sector, many in the industry believe the government is still misdirected when it comes to tax and incentives in the market, with some landlords leaving an already strained sector – putting more pressure on the supply shortage.

“Really, we need clear guidance from the government on how the private rental sector will be supported through this economic crisis,” says Browne. “Tenants and landlords are both struggling with rising costs, and more needs to be done to get people through the coming months.”

A more balanced outlook

At one stage, analysts were expecting the Bank of England base rate to rise to 6% next year, which would put further pressure on mortgage prices and the housing market. However, this has now been tempered to more like 4-5% in many predictions, with swap rates already dropping since Rishi Sunak took the reins.

“What landlords and property investors need to remember is that swap rates influence mortgage pricing for market-funded lenders, which is good news for fixed rate products,” points out Browne.

“Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt’s appointments and subsequent actions have been met with approval by the money markets which has meant that swaps have started to ease down, so whilst the [Bank of England’s] Base Rate rises, we are expecting fixed rates to come down slightly over the coming weeks.”

Whether Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s upcoming autumn budget will reveal any measures to assist landlords or tenants is currently uncertain.

It seems likely that the statement will detail how the government will raise more funding through increasing taxes, while also reassuring the markets by putting a major focus on economic recovery and boosting UK growth.

Corporation tax is set to be overhauled and increased to 25% from April, which will affect some limited company landlords in the private rented sector. There is also speculation over whether capital gains tax could be in for a hike or a rethink, while some tax reliefs are also under the microscope.

There have been calls in the past for the government to scrap the 3% stamp duty surcharge which investors and landlords must pay on additional property purchases, in order to spur on the market and keep up the supply of homes in the sector.

However, this measure seems unlikely, at least in the short term, as stamp duty was already a key focus of the most recent mini-budget.

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