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Buy-to-Let Watch: BTL is not the only fruit

The Budget could have addressed some of the housing white paper’s shortcomings, such as the problems with leasehold

Listening to the Budget earlier this month I found myself feeling something I had never expected to feel: actual frustration that housing was not being given a mention.

After a turbulent few years in the buy-to-let market, and with landlords still coming to terms with the first round of PRA regulation, I was of course hoping the BTL sector would be left out of the chancellor’s statement this year. It is time to give landlords a break. But to ignore housing altogether – at a time when there are so many issues that need addressing – seems a strange choice.

I assume Philip Hammond felt that housing need not be a feature of the Budget because it had already been addressed this year in February’s housing white paper. However, that paper has been widely criticised for being weak in approach; indeed, there was little of substance in it. The Budget would have been an ideal opportunity to address some of the problems the market is facing.

For example, leasehold issues have grabbed the headlines of late and the white paper offered little action on these problems. I would have liked Hammond to use the Budget to reveal what the Government planned to do to help those homeowners who had bought a new-build property without understanding it was a leasehold, not a freehold.

These buyers are stuck paying pricey ground rent and service charges. Many find themselves unable to buy the freehold for the property because it has been sold on to an investment firm at a profit. What is more, according to several newspaper reports, many new-build properties are being completed far below standard, leaving their buyers with complaints.

It seems that, in an effort to solve the housing crisis, housebuilders are rushing jobs and buyers are being encouraged to move in to unsuitable homes.

This is obviously not the way to solve the supply problem currently affecting the market. As one newspaper columnist rightly put it, what is the point in having more houses if they are not fit to live in? Yet this was an issue left out of Hammond’s Spring Budget too.

The Government should intervene in all areas of the housing market, not just buy-to-let. Why are landlords routinely targeted while other corners of the market are ignored, despite ongoing issues that affect homeowners?

Ying Tan is managing director at Buy to Let Club

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