Tax reform and tighter regulation for landlords is slowing the growth of the PRS, despite its value hitting a new high, Kent Reliance’s Buy to Let Britain report shows.
The value of the PRS in Great Britain stands at nearly £1.4 trillion, a rise of 6.4% or £82.6bn in the last year.
Rising house prices have been the key reason for this increase, with the average rental property climbing in value by 4.2% in the last year.
Andy Golding, chief executive of OneSavings Bank, which trades under the Kent Reliance and InterBay brands in buy-to-let, said: “Landlords are swallowing the unpleasant cocktail of higher taxation and tighter regulation, and this is undermining the expansion of the private rented sector.
“A fundamental shift in the landlord population is now underway, as buy-to-let moves from being a popular past-time for hundreds of thousands of British amateur landlords, to the preserve of committed long-term investors with experience and expertise.
“The pace of professionalisation will only increase following the PRA’s latest moves, and incorporation continues apace.
“Creating a more professional sector is no bad thing, but there is a limit to the amount of change the sector can absorb before we see a damaging reduction in supply – an outcome that would see rents increase for tenants and reduce their ability to save for a deposit for house purchase.
“Landlords’ confidence is better but still clearly fragile, and as the new tax reforms gradually come into force, any further financial burdens may prove to be a tipping point.”
The total number of households in rented accommodation is growing much more slowly. There are nearly 5.6m households across Great Britain in the private rented sector, just 2.2% more than a year ago. This is less than a third of the rate of increase seen in 2014.
Slower growth reflects landlords’ fragile confidence in the sector.
Just 41% of landlords are confident about the prospects for their portfolios.
While this is a slight recovery from the record low reached in the second quarter of 2017, back to the level seen at the start of the year, it remains far lower than in recent years.
Confidence has been hit by tax reform reducing the amount of mortgage interest that can be offset against tax, rising costs, and new mortgage rules that have tightened criteria.
Tenant demand is growing more slowly too. Just 5% more landlords reported rising tenant demand than those reporting it fall, the lowest balance in at least five years.
This has been reflected in easing in rental inflation. Average rents per property now stand at £895 per month across Great Britain.
Although this is another new high, the typical rent increased by 1.5% annually, down from 2.4% a year ago, with sluggish growth in London weighing on the national average. Rents are likely to continue to climb as 29% of landlords expect to increase rents over the next six months, ten times the number who expect to reduce them.
As taxation rises over each of the next three years, buy-to-let landlords could look to pass on rising costs to tenants where possible.
Professionalisation is also being driven by the PRA’s recent intervention in the market. Since the end of September, for those with four or more mortgaged properties, lenders must account for much more detail about their portfolio, their experience and track record, assets and liabilities, and business plan. For many landlords, this means creating business plans for the first time, and considering longer-term planning for their portfolios.
Golding added: “The need for a strong and stable PRS has not changed, notwithstanding the government’s housing announcements in the Budget. The removal of stamp duty for 95% of first-time buyers should provide some help for those with savings, but it will also bolster house prices – the same side-effect Help To Buy is having.
“The housing market is significantly more complex than can be solved with some demand side stimulus. The PRS fulfils a vital role in our society and our economy, a role that needs to be reflected in an evolved Housing policy.”