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The Emergence Of Accidental Gravesend Landlords In A Slowing Housing Market?

9 months ago
The Emergence Of Accidental Gravesend Landlords In A Slowing Housing Market?

While the sales market in Gravesend has experienced a period of strength in recent years, activity has started to slow down from the levels seen in 2021/2. In contrast, there has been soaring demand for Gravesend rental properties. To give you an idea of the growth of rents, the average rent for homes coming on the market in the Gravesend area in 2021 was £1,130 per month, while in 2023, it has been £1,563 per month.

Some Gravesend homeowners, fearing not achieving their desired selling price, might opt to retain ownership of their properties and instead rent them out until market conditions improve. Back in 2008/9, this trend was particularly evident in the middle market segment. However, in 2023, many property commentators are suggesting that if ‘accidental landlords’ do start to emerge, it will be in the upper quartile property segment (i.e., the top 25% of properties by value), where many homeowners bought in the post-lockdown race for space of 2021/2.

Looking at the figures, they could be correct. The upper quartile rental market starts at just under the £1,500 per month range in Gravesend:

  • In the first seven months of 2021 (Jan to Jul) in the Gravesend area – an average of 7 properties a month came onto the market for rent at £1,500 per month or more.
  • In the first seven months of 2022 (Jan to Jul) in the Gravesend area – an average of 16 properties a month came onto the market for rent at £1,500 per month or more.
  • In the first seven months of 2023 (Jan to Jul) in the Gravesend area – an average of 28 properties a month came onto the market for rent at £1,500 per month or more. (Gravesend area being DA11/12/13).

Many of these homeowners could afford to be patient in pursuit of optimal selling conditions. The rise of ‘accidental landlords’ can be attributed to various factors, such as limited property appreciation, increasing mortgage costs, and robust demand for Gravesend rentals, making renting out properties an attractive alternative.

‘Accidental landlords’ are also created through other diverse circumstances. Regardless of what is happening in the economy and the Gravesend property market, births, deaths, and marriages continue. There will always be some new couples who decide to rent out one of their properties after moving into a shared home, while others inherit properties through the passing of parents or grandparents.

The current average tenancy length of 51 months provides these new Gravesend landlords with just over four years to allow Gravesend property values to recover before re-evaluating the market. However, stepping into the role of an ‘accidental landlord’ carries specific implications that homeowners need to be mindful of. Understanding the tax implications is a crucial aspect that ‘accidental landlords’ should grasp. Transitioning to landlord status may result in the loss of specific tax benefits, including stamp duty relief, and necessitate the payment of income tax on rent. Furthermore, upon selling the Gravesend rental property, landlords may become liable for capital gains tax on the profit made from the sale, as it is no longer considered their primary residence. I implore you to seek advice from an accountant.

To mitigate the impact of tax changes, some Gravesend landlords have chosen to incorporate their properties into Limited Companies. Corporate structures offer potential tax relief on mortgage costs and the opportunity to pay lower Corporation Tax rates than individual income tax rates. However, incorporating properties involves additional expenses, such as stamp duty and capital gains tax on existing properties transferred to the company. Individual landlords with only one property may find incorporation less advantageous, but it could be a viable option for those planning to expand their buy-to-let portfolios.

Investing in property maintenance is a crucial consideration for Gravesend’s ‘accidental landlords’. Well-maintained properties are more likely to retain or increase their value over time. Retrofitting properties to improve energy performance can also benefit tenants and future buyers, helping reduce utility costs and enhance overall comfort. ‘Accidental landlords’ must diligently handle this critical area: appropriately protecting tenants’ deposits. Please safeguard deposits adequately to avoid significant compensation claims, with landlords potentially losing up to three times the deposit amount. To protect against such risks, landlords must ensure compliance with deposit protection schemes and provide tenants with essential documents, including Energy Performance Certificates, the Government’s “How to Rent” guide, and current gas safety certificates.

Misunderstandings can inadvertently arise when renting directly to family or friends, leading to legal disputes. Even though you know the tenant, it could still be wise to employ the services of a letting agent to establish clear terms in writing at the outset of a tenancy to avoid potential conflicts and protect the rights of both landlords and tenants. This becomes particularly relevant as the Renters Reform Bill, set to introduce significant changes to the private rental sector, including tenancy length and the process of regaining possession, is awaiting approval.

My overriding message to every Gravesend ‘accidental landlord’ is that they must be aware of the tax implications, consider incorporation as a potential strategy, invest in property maintenance, protect tenants’ deposits, and establish clear terms to avoid disputes. Additionally, there are over 170 pieces of regulations regarding renting your property out. Also, it’s essential to stay informed about forthcoming changes in renters’ rights introduced by the Renters Reform Bill.

In conclusion, with the Gravesend housing market experiencing a slowdown, I suspect an increasing number of Gravesend homeowners are considering becoming ‘accidental landlords’ by opting to rent out their properties instead of selling. You must weigh the risks of renting your Gravesend home and the potential rewards. I know of many stories of Gravesend homeowners who waited five or six years after the Credit Crunch to hit their ‘target price’ for their existing home, only to realize it cost them tens of thousands of pounds in costs and the price they had to pay for their new home. On the other side of the coin, I know plenty of ‘accidental landlords’ in Gravesend who used the fact that they became an ‘accidental landlord’ as an opportunity to build an impressive rental portfolio over the last 15 years.

If you are uncertain or do not possess all the facts, don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss your plans. Then I can give you appropriate level-headed advice to make the right decision. By taking proactive steps and understanding the risks and rewards of being an ‘accidental landlord’ in Gravesend, you can navigate the Gravesend property market successfully, even during uncertain times in the housing market.

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