The accidental landlord:tax relief cuts on mortgage interest payments isn’t fair

The Chancellor’s removal of tax aid for private landlords isn’t fair when bigger property investors will escape.

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Don’t you just love the idea of an ex-Labour prime minister’s wife helping to fight a Tory chancellor’s plan to tax landlords more heavily — calling it a breach of our human rights? Next, Sir David Attenborough will be airing a documentary on landlords as a breed threatened with extinction by wilful Acts of Parliament.

Not that I think Cherie Booth QC — aka Mrs Tony Blair — hasn’t got a strong argument against George Osborne’s plan to remove the relief landlords get on mortgage interest payments.

Given that every other type of business is allowed to deduct the cost of loans from pre-tax profits, it seems harsh that landlords should be treated differently.

Mr Osborne’s argument is that buying to let isn’t a business, it’s an investment. Obviously he’s never tried looking after a rental property and its tenants. It’s a business, George, trust me.

Also, it does seem unfair that only those landlords who have taken out mortgages as individuals — myself included — will be hit.

Bigger investors who buy properties through companies, or those without mortgages, won’t be affected and neither will those running holiday lets.

I don’t get the impression Ms Booth is too hopeful of winning her battle. She has been quoted as saying that her application for a judicial review of Clause 24 of the Finance Act 2015 has only a “reasonable chance” of success, but I suppose it is worth a try.

While other landlords have been busy crowdfunding the legal action, I have been busy running my rental business — take note, Mr Osborne — and faffing about with doorbells.

Yep. Doorbells.

My tenant has asked me to install a bell, which I could understand if she was in a block of flats, but she has her own front door with a good old-fashioned knocker. She doesn’t think the knocker adequate, even though you can hear it from anywhere inside the flat. You can even hear it in the next street, but my tenant still feels the need for a bell.

It’s an odd request, I think, especially as I have lived in my house for 10 years and it has never bothered me that I don’t have a doorbell.

Now that I think about it though, there are times when I’m not sure whether I have heard a knock at the door or a car door slamming, so I hoof it downstairs, only to discover it was just the sound of junk mail being thumped through the letter box. But, you know, that’s nothing more than a minor inconvenience.

However, while I put up with lots of niggling imperfections in my own home, my tenants expect everything to be just so. Little things, like the lack of a bell, can irritate them almost as much as a bigger problem. I guess they think it isn’t a lot to ask, so the landlord ought to sort it out.

Really, it is best to make sure everything is in order before a new tenant moves in, so that they don’t find anything to complain about.

While it is tempting to ignore little problems like loose door handles, wonky loo seats and, yes, the lack of a doorbell — don’t. You hope the tenant won’t notice, but they usually will.

I didn’t want to spend money on an electrician to install a bell, but then I discovered that you can buy wireless, battery-operated ones that just stick into place for about £5 or £6. They look a bit naff, the cheapest might not last very long, but hey, if it keeps my tenant happy, I am happy to buy her one.

You see, Mr Osborne, that’s business.

  • Victoria Whitlock lets four properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock


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