Mortgages  

Further rule changes would damage BTL market

Further rule changes would damage BTL market

Regulation in the mortgage market is helpful but any more interference may create problems for brokers and their clients, delegates at the FTAdviser Financial Advice Forum in London were told.

In a panel session entitled "Buy-to-let: how professional landlords can overcome tax and legislative hurdles", Andrew Montlake, director of Coreco, and Martin Stewart, director of London Money, said the current regulatory environment was generally positive for clients.

Mr Stewart said: "Regulation is nothing for people to be afraid of. A good broker with a good moral compass will always do a decent job for their clients. I don't mind regulation per se."

Mr Montlake agreed, saying: "Regulation has created an environment where good brokers can demonstrate their professionalism. This shows the public you are responsible and generally I think we are in a good position."

But he cautioned: "I don't want more regulation for the sake of it. If it does get rid of the amateur landlords, the charlatans, the so-called 'dinner party property investors', then I am all for regulation that helps make buy-to-let a more professional market.

"What I fear is there may be more changes ahead, that makes things more complicated and doesn't really focus on what the client really wants and needs."

Both men agreed there had been a change in the mortgage market, largely driven by government tinkering with stamp duty and tighter controls to weed out bad landlords. 

This was visible in a slowdown in new buy-to-let enquiries for London Money and some delegates in the room.

Mr Stewart said he was pleased to see more "amateurs" leave the market and free up housing for first-time buyers but he felt regulation could do more to raise standards further.

However, while there has not so far been a glut of housing dumped back on the market by disgruntled buy-to-let investors, a "perfect storm" could be caused due to Brexit uncertainty, new governments and unknown elements that might see more of an exodus in 2021.

Most buy-to-let lenders are regulated by the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).

In 2017, among other regulatory changes that endeavoured to take some of the heat out of the buy-to-let market, the PRA implemented rules on how much can be lent to potential buy-to-let investors, based on how much rent was being charged.

The rule is that when making a loan, the rent must cover at least 145 per cent of the mortgage payment when the interest rate is at least 5.5 per cent.

This followed the government's reform of the rules governing BTL, which included a 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge for second homes and cuts to landlord tax relief. 

As some delegates in the room commented, higher taxes and a lack of upward movement on rents - especially in London - have meant some landlords with smaller portfolios are not making enough of a profit to continue as a buy-to-let investor.