Adrian Moloney (pictured) is sales director at OneSavings Bank
It’s hard to think of a time when landlords have faced such an uncertain playing field as today.
A raft of regulation and taxation changes have had a significant impact on bottom lines, whilst the market has slowed as we wait and see what the impact of Brexit will be.
Unsurprisingly then, landlords have been looking for alternative ways to increase yields as well as diversify their portfolio to minimise any potential risk.
For many, HMOs have been one such way.
The number of landlords who have gone down this route already speaks for itself: the BVA BDRC’s latest survey shows that one in five landlords now have an HMO property in their portfolio.
Knowing this, it’s highly likely that brokers will be facing an increase in enquiries from landlords considering diversifying into HMOs and wanting to know the considerations to factor in.
The well-publicised advantage of HMOs is that rental yields are often higher than for a typical rental property.
The same BVA BDRC research suggests the average yield for an HMO is one-fifth higher.
For example, a landlord taking in nearly £12,800 in rent each year for an HMO, compared to £10,750 for a standard property.
Before we get carried away, we should remember that costs are also likely to be higher than a standard rental property.
An HMO license can range considerably from under £100 to over £1,000 depending on the property location.
Work may be needed on the property to ensure that it is compliant with regulation.
This could involve ensuring bedrooms are a minimum size, providing the right number and location of bathrooms or even extending the kitchen worktop.
Day to day, the potential higher turnover of tenants and more intensive use also means higher costs in terms of maintenance.
It’s important to do your sums but if costs can be kept reasonably low, yields can still be good.
Rental voids have less impact
Letting each room individually, inevitably involves more work at the start due to vetting each individual tenant when they move in but careful investigation at the start will pay off when it comes to them moving out.
When a tenant moves out of a single let property, there’s a total loss of income but with a multi-let property, the remaining rooms remain tenanted therefore limiting total impact.
Less exposure to arrears
The same ‘eggs in multiple baskets’ logic applies to arrears. Having several sources of income – with tenants paying smaller monthly rents for a room within a property – a landlord is less exposed if a tenant falls behind on their rent.
In the current economic climate, with fears of a downturn post-Brexit and potential job losses being bandied around, this potential benefit might sit well with some landlords.
One difference between HMOs and single-let properties is the potential to claim income tax relief on qualifying items.
This applies to the costs associated within the communal areas, which are treated as an expense of the rental business.
Normal rental losses are only rolled forward for offset against future rental properties.
However, capital allowances can be offset against non-property income to generate tax rebates, which could add up to a significant amount.
However it’s important not to advise on any tax related questions yourself, always point your clients towards a professional tax adviser.
There is a need for flexible, affordable housing
Keeping costs affordable for your target audience is particularly important as you want to try and attract long term tenants rather than a series of short-term lets.
Renting is popular with students, young professionals, mobile workers and single people so keep this mind.
The private rented sector as a whole has doubled since 2000, and now accounts for one fifth of all homes in Great Britain.
With the rising cost of living, particularly in cities, combined with population growth and a shortage of affordable housing, HMOs or “house shares” could help to fix the problems we face in the housing market.
HMOs offer a far cheaper alternative to renting an entire property by enabling tenants to split household bills, while allowing them the privacy of their own bedroom.
In this shifting market, brokers’ advice is likely to be valued even more by landlords. This area of the market requires brokers to stay one step ahead, always on the lookout for any regulatory changes and trends.