Buy to let landlords in UK well placed to cope with an interest rate rise

Buy to let landlords in the UK are financially resilient and are well placed to cope with expected higher borrowing costs, according to a new survey.

Asked how they would deal with a 1.5% rise in Bank rate, three quarters foresaw no problems in paying their mortgage, says the data from the YouGov survey.

More than 60% said their rental income would remain higher than their mortgage payments, and 40% said they already had enough money to cover higher borrowing costs.

Meanwhile, according to data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) lenders have increased the average rate at which they stress test buy to let mortgages and after a strong first quarter, the CML expects buy to let purchases to decline in 2016 but buy to let remortgaging to remain robust.

According to the transactional data collected by the CML from lenders accounting for about 90% of new lending, the typical stressed mortgage rate being used by the industry has increased by 50 basis points to between 5.6% and 5.7% over the past year.

According to Bob Pannell, CML chief economist, while this is still some way from the rates implied for lending to home owners, a more forced pace of adjustment would risk destabilising the buy to let sector.

He also pointed out that landlords identify a range of strategies for coping with higher mortgage costs, including the positive cash flow that rental payments currently provide and ready access to contingency funds.

But he also pointed out that a number of tax measures have been announced in recent months, and these are likely to have a dampening effect on future growth prospects for buy to let and the private rented sector.

‘The reduction of tax reliefs available to private landlords from 2017/2018 onwards, announced by the chancellor in the summer 2015 Budget, will adversely affect the future cash flows for affected landlords,’ said Pannell.

‘Landlords should be able to mitigate the direct financial impact in a number of ways. Indeed, the YouGov research corroborates our view that the overall impact will be to lift rents higher and to narrow the availability of homes in the private rented sector,’ he explained.

‘The direct effects appear modest, but are likely to be reinforced by the stamp duty changes, announced in the chancellor’s autumn statement. The rapid succession of recent tax changes also risks having a significant indirect effect on investor sentiment, altering the direction of travel for buy to let lending and the further expansion of the private rented sector,’ he added.

The CML’s latest market forecasts envisage house purchase activity by buy to let landlords falling away over 2016 and 2017. Given the significant lags in government housing initiatives stimulating additional housing supply, this raises a question about the future availability of rental accommodation in the face of ongoing demographic pressures.

‘In this context, macro-prudential intervention, if or when it is applied to buy to let lending, carries a significant risk of unintended consequences for the wider housing market. We will continue to work closely with the Bank of England, to reinforce its understanding of the sector, and to ensure very careful calibration of any forthcoming measures,’ Pannell concluded.