Weekly landlord news digest: controversial landlord sells up, landlord tax avoidance, council support for whistle-blowing tenants

For landlords keeping on top of the latest industry news while juggling a property portfolio can seem a tall order but it needn’t be.  Each week Hamilton Fraser pick out the top landlord news that you need to know.

This week’s landlord news digest takes a look at controversial landlord Fergus Wilson and the sale of his property empire, landlord tax avoidance, and council support for whistle-blowing tenants.


Controversial landlord Fergus Wilson is selling his property empire

The controversial landlord Fergus Wilson, who built up one of the largest private landlord portfolios throughout the 1990s and 2000’s, was interviewed by BBC Panorama this week following his decision to sell his entire portfolio.

Wilson has become infamous for his opinions and rules imposed on his tenants, often making comments on the property industry.

“Basically, we have got two types of tenants – those who agree with me and ex-tenants.”

– Fergus Wilson

The buy-to-let empire run by Mr Wilson and his wife, Judith, currently let out 300 homes throughout Kent. Over the years they have refused to let their properties to those on zero-hour contracts, tenants on benefits and single mothers. The Wilson’s suggest that they have provided homes for approximately 10,000 tenants since buying their first rental property back in 1991. At their height it is believed that they owned nearly 1,000 properties.

Mr Wilson, who is 70, has decided to retire after facing a number of court appearances related to the treatment of his tenants. It is reported that the Wilsons properties will be sold street by street.

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Landlords turn down the chance to confess tax avoidance

Landlords have given a clear thumbs down to efforts by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to wipe the slate clean for property tax dodgers. The ‘Let Property Campaign’ is an opportunity for landlords who owe tax through letting out their residential properties to get their tax affairs in order. This also helps landlords to take advantage of the best possible terms available.

HMRC estimated 1.5 million landlords would rush to join the Let Property Campaign, raising £500 million in unpaid tax. That was in 2013.

Six years later, it is reported that only 35,099 landlords have taken the opportunity to disclose their financial affairs in return for lighter penalties, raising just £85 million for HMRC.

Out of this only 871 of them admitted deliberately misleading the tax man.

The data comes from a Freedom of Information response to accountants Saffery Champness that questioned HMRC about the effectiveness of the campaign.

Making a Let Property Campaign disclosure.

“From the outset, the Let Property Campaign was always looking much more widely than just traditional landlords. It also targets those who may have become accidental landlords – such as those with holiday lets or multiple occupations. According to HMRC, there are clearly many more landlords who have additional tax to pay, but have yet to come forward.  If this is the case, then these people would be well advised to contact the taxman sooner rather than later. HMRC has been tightening the net on non-compliance and there are increasingly few opportunities for taxpayers to mitigate the risk of an investigation.”

– James Hender, the Head of Private Wealth at Saffery Champness

Call to make leaseholds cheaper and fairer for homeowners

MPs are demanding a reform of out-dated leasehold property laws to make owning a home cheaper and fairer.

“We found that the leasehold system often fails to provide an effective system for managing multi-occupancy residential properties, and believe that a commonhold model would be more appropriate in most circumstances,”

– Clive Betts, committee chair

Among a list of wide-ranging changes, they are calling for peppercorn rents on new ground rents and a cap on existing ground rents at 0.1 per cent  of a home’s value limited to a maximum £250.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government select Committee published a report on leasehold property owning, slamming agents and freeholders for making exorbitant charges.

“Buildings require effective management to ensure they are kept up to a sufficient standard of repair, but to spread responsibility for covering the costs. Yet in too many cases, leasehold has failed to do this, and acted primarily as means of providing a steady income for developers, freeholders or managing agents.” said committee chair Clive Betts

Read more about the call for leasehold reform.