The accidental landlord

Thanks to social networking websites, landlord Victoria Whitlock learns how to reduce tax bills and advertise her rental properties
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Twitter and I have developed a love-hate relationship. I find the social networking site a hideous distraction, constantly chirping away in the background like a demented pigeon, but occasionally, out of all of that noise, it will suddenly throw up some really useful stuff for amateur landlords like myself.

So far I’ve been tweeted a fabulous recipe for Finnish-style salmon soup and, erm, what else? Oh yeah, it told me how to knock £1,500 off my tax bill. And Twitter was right.

My partner and I had just filed our tax returns online when up popped a tweet from self-styled property investment guru Amer Siddiq, with a link to an article on his snappily titled website about ways in which couples who own rental properties can reduce their tax bill. Apparently, if a couple live together (but aren’t married or in a civil partnership) and own a property jointly they can share the rental income pretty much any way they like, regardless of their stake in the place.

As my partner and I own our rental properties 50:50 I had (wrongly) assumed that we must divide the profit equally and pay 40 per cent tax on my partner’s share as he is a higher-rate taxpayer.

Watching the tax bill shrink by hundreds of pounds was a good feeling

However, according to this article, my partner can transfer his share of the profit to me (thanks very much) to reduce our tax bill.

On spotting the tweet, I immediately went on to the Inland Revenue website and amended the figures on our tax returns just before the January 31 deadline, adding a PS to the taxman to let him know that my other half had generously handed his profit to me, which was only fair as I did most of the work while he watched TV. Just kidding.

Watching the tax bill shrink by hundreds of pounds was a good feeling and one which I owe entirely to Twitter. Without it I would never have stumbled across @AmerSiddiq in the first place and I’d be quite a lot worse off.

However, I’m not sure how much longer I can put up with all the incontinent tweeters, the "Twitter bores" (one woman tweets at me what she eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day) and all the letting agents who tweet about their services so manically it’s like being cold-called by crack addicts.

I have picked up another little nugget of advice though, from landlord Mark Alexander who runs a website called Property118. He suggested landlords set up Facebook accounts for their rental properties to advertise when they’ve got vacancies.

Great idea, I thought, and how crazy that I hadn’t done it before. Mark - I feel I can call him by his first name as we’re twends - suggested that landlords ask tenants to share the link to their property’s Facebook page with all of their Facebook friends, who can share it with their friends, and so on. I believe this is what’s known as "viral marketing".

As my four-bedroom flat has a high turnover of tenants, getting them to do the legwork for me in advertising the place is hugely appealing, but I’m not sure about Mark’s idea that you encourage tenants to post a comment about what they think of you as a landlord. "Don’t worry if tenants tell you about problems," Mark wrote. "This is good news as it might prevent further problems at your property."

Yeah, and I suppose you can always delete any negative comments anyway...In the meantime, if you’ve got any top tips to share, feel free to tweet me @vicwhitlock, but please don’t tell me what you had for lunch, okay?

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