Private landlords in Britain fall to seven-year low

Decline in sector follows changes to tax rules to encourage first-time buyers

A postman delivers letters to a bright pink painted residential house in Chelsea, west London, U.K., on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. London's housing market is being battered from all sides. A survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors showed a price gauge at its lowest level for seven years, and far below the national average. Photographer: Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
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The number of private landlords in Britain has fallen to a seven-year low after tax changes that have led to investors selling.

Property company Hamptons International estimated there were 2.66 million landlords in Britain, the lowest level since 2012.

The government of former prime minister David Cameron began tax and regulatory changes in 2016 that have drastically cut the profitability of owning more than one home in the UK and renting it out.

His finance minister George Osborne said he wanted to stop the rise of the amateur landlord to allow young families the opportunity to buy rather than rent.

Changes have included a 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge on a second property and the scrapping of tax relief on investors’ mortgage interest payments.

The UK has some of the world’s least affordable properties with an average skilled service worker needing to work for 16 years before being able to afford a small London city-centre flat, according to a UBS survey in 2019.

Of the major cities around the world, only Paris and Hong Kong would require longer service, while workers in Dubai would need only six years to reach that point, the study found.

The number of landlords in Britain peaked at 2.88 million in 2017 but has since fallen by 8 per cent, according to the study by Hamptons International.

It found the average landlord in Britain owned 1.93 buy-to-let properties, the highest level since 2009. Last year, 30 per cent of landlords owned more than one buy-to-let property, the highest proportion on record. The figures suggested the small-time property entrepreneur was dropping out of the system.

Aneisha Beveridge, head of research at Hamptons, said: “The number of landlords in the private rented sector has fallen to the lowest level in seven years.

“Those who have stayed tend to have bigger portfolios – a further sign that the sector is professionalising.”