Further to Mr Patrick Honohan’s comments that the “banks will have to be more aggressive in repossessing properties in the buy-to-let sector” a couple of points should be noted. Firstly, as a company working closely with buy-to-let investors, we are unaware that the banks were ‘holding off’ on being aggressive with landlords. In our experience working with our clients, we have found that the banks have already been taking an aggressive approach with borrowers, and it has taken considerable effort on our part to get the banks to agree to any arrangement with the borrower. In addition, many landlords have cross-secured their buy-to-let investment with their home, so if the bank seek repossession, this will place the landlords home at risk.
Since the downturn landlords have seen their rental income drop, increases in variable mortgage interest, the introduction of NPPR, USC on rental income, the reduction of mortgage interest that is tax allowable to 75% and the recent introduction of the household charge. Take a landlord who has rental income of €12,000 pa . If is mortgage is on a variable rate, his interest repayments will typically also be €12,000 pa, of which he can only allow €9000 against his rental income, so he will be liable for tax, USC etc on €3000. He will also pay €300 in property taxes and will have other bills for service charges, maintenance costs etc. Unless the landlord has losses forward from previous years or unused capital allowances, he will be paying income tax on a negative income.
If the banks insist on repossessing buy-to-let properties, they will either sell them at a vastly reduced price, leaving the landlord with the remaining debt leveraged against his home, or the bank will attempt to manage the properties themselves. Managing buy-to-let properties is not the banks area of expertise. The bank would be better coming to an arrangement with the landlord with regards to his loan repayments and allow the landlord to manage his property himself, or with the help of a property management company, who have experience in the area and can maximise rental income and therefore enable the loan to be paid off over time.
At SCK Group, we have been working with our clients to help them navigate what has been a difficult time for landlords. We have been negotiating with the banks on their behalf and have had some success in this. Many landlords have not been utilising all the capital allowances available to them and we have been able to reduce their tax bill by advising them in this area. Some properties have fallen into disrepair because landlords have not had the money to pay for ongoing maintenance. When we realised that this was preventing landlords getting tenants for their properties, we set up our Property Refurbishment Scheme, whereby we will carry out the repairs, pay the up-front costs and then the landlord can repay us overtime from the rental income. This year, because we recognise the extra burden placed on landlords, we are going to pay the NPPR (second home tax), for all new properties let and managed by us.