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Editor’s Note: No alarms and no surprises

There were few surprises in last week’s Autumn Statement, aside from the revelation that Philip Hammond had more banter in him than many had previously given him credit for.

For someone with a reputation for being dull, he did a decent job of providing light relief with a few friendly jibes at George Osborne and Boris Johnson during his much-awaited November speech, which was to be the last of its kind.

But despite the season of goodwill quickly approaching, the chancellor wasn’t feeling too generous towards landlords; any morsel of hope they may have had that there would be some reprieve on tax relief and stamp duty was dashed, with the topic not even broached during Hammond’s hour-long speech.

In fact, the apple cart looks set to be upset even further for landlords, who will be faced with further expenses now that letting agents have been banned from charging fees to tenants for the likes of reference checks and other admin.

While this is certainly good news for renters, and will assist those saving for a mortgage deposit, there has been widespread concern from industry commentators that the additional fees landlords have to pay will be passed on to tenants. If this becomes the case, the Government’s measure will have proved counterproductive and affordability issues for first-time buyers could continue ad infinitum.

However, Bob Young of Fleet Mortgages believes landlords will be able to offset letting charges against tax, which would no doubt render the policy more successful.

The housing measures brought in are of course welcome, and it would be silly to knock any action intended to boost the number of residential properties being built. However, as the industry has attested, the £2.3bn allocated to the cause is a drop in the ocean compared to the amount of housing infrastructure required to make a real impact on the crisis.

The £1.4bn assigned for 40,000 affordable houses may also be received in the manner of: “Thanks, Phil, but where’s the rest?”

But you know what they say: don’t look a (small) gift horse in the mouth. We’ll hold out for more sizeable gifts of the housing variety once all this uncertainty calms down. Any day now…


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