The accidental landlord: it is possible to manage a rental property from overseas

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Who doesn’t dream of starting a new life abroad? I know I do, but the big question is, can you manage your rental property from overseas?

Assuming you’re not disappearing to the other side of the world and you are living somewhere with a reliable internet connection, there is no reason why not.

A few years ago I rented out my house in London to fund a ski season, and the letting agent who found me tenants tried to bully me into paying him to manage the property while I was away.

He even pretended that the tenants had insisted upon this, which was nonsense. They had requested no such thing.

Paying an agent to manage my property would have put a serious dent in my après-ski budget — and anyway, I was confident that I could make a better job of looking after my house and my two rental flats myself, even from the top of a mountain.

Everything went smoothly while I was away. There were one or two maintenance issues, but nothing that I couldn’t manage from my laptop. However, I had only gone to France, and I was living in a town with a fast internet connection so it was easy to stay in touch with my tenants.

If you are thinking of disappearing to a desert island, a tax haven in a different time zone, or on an exotic  round-the-world sailing trip, I would suggest that you pay a good letting agent to manage your property.

Also, a landlord who moves  abroad, or anyone who rents out their home while they are living overseas, needs to be aware of the following points.

No matter where you move to, even if you only hop over the English Channel, you must have a UK address where tenants can serve notice when they want to end their tenancy. This is a legal requirement.

You can’t protect your tenant’s deposit using one of the insurance-backed schemes and keep the cash in your own account. You must hand over the money to the Deposit Protection Service custodial scheme (

That is a bit of a bore if you were planning to use the deposit to help fund your round-the-world trip. Just kidding... of course you weren’t planning to do any such thing. The tax situation for landlords living overseas is also a little complex.

If you live abroad for more than six months, Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs will consider you as a  non-resident landlord, even if you remain a UK resident for tax purposes. This means that it will expect your tenant, or letting agent if you are using one, to deduct the basic rate of tax from the rent.

You can avoid this by registering with HMRC for self-assessment  and filling out form NRL1i. You need to do this even if you don’t make  any profit.

Individual tenants who pay more than £100 a week directly into an overseas landlord’s bank account are obliged to deduct the basic rate of tax, unless the landlord has been granted an exemption by HMRC. 

If you are a tenant in this situation, ask your landlord if they have a letter from HMRC accepting their NRL1i application.

Also, landlords living abroad can’t use HMRC’s online service to file a tax return. You have to send it by post, buy software to send it electronically or get an accountant to do it for you. 

So, yes, you can manage a rental property from overseas, but you need to get organised. If you are doing a Robinson Crusoe, you probably ought to employ an agent for both your and your tenant’s peace of mind.
  • Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock

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