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Guide & Tips For First Time Landlord | Being a Landlord for the First Time

Guide & Tips For First Time Landlord | Being a Landlord for the First Time

Being a Landlord for the First Time

Becoming a landlord can be a big step or something you fall into. A landlord is the owner of a property that is rented out to others, short or long term. Either way you need to consider the ongoing position carefully: –

  • What type of rental are you making?
  • Are there any special rules?
  • How much money are you investing in this enterprise?
  • What are the regular returns/costs?
  • What are the capital gains on sale?
  • What about taxes?
  • What happens if tenants don’t pay up?
  • Have you got a contract?
  • Is this the best way to invest your money?

If you would like help with planning, Tax returns, Bookkeeping, mortgages or a Financial Advisor then do contact us for help.

Types of Rental 

To appreciate and understand the rules and taxes you first need to understand the main types of rental:

  • Room in your own home
  • Buy to let
  • Furnished Holiday Letting (FHL)
  • Commercial Property
  • House in Multiple Occupancy (HMO)
  • Other

Room in your own home

There are various ways you can exploit you own home for the purpose for profit, but this category is specifically for furnished living accommodation that you share.

  • A lodger – renting a room and sharing your facilities
  • Airbnb – renting space in your home g. when you are on holiday
  • Not Bed & Breakfast – this is treated as a business
  • Not Office space
  • Not if a self-contained unit

Rent a room relief gives a £7,500 annual exemption from reporting and paying tax on such income. If this threshold is exceeded, then you need to report total gross income on your personal tax return; where you can then claim a deduction for either actual expenses or the £7,500 rent a room allowance.

Buy to Let

Residential property that you buy, or keep, for the purposes of renting out, e.g. houses or flats, is generally called buy to let and is the principal type of property that we are looking at in this guide.

HMRC will want to see furnished lettings separated from unfurnished lettings income.

Furnished Holiday Letting (FHL)

There are special rules available for furnished accommodation let short term for holidays etc. If you can fulfil the conditions, then such income may be treated as business income instead of investment income and hence be available for some loss reliefs, and capital allowances on equipment.

To qualify, the property must be

  • in UK or EEA (UK and EEA property income needs to be separated)
  • furnished
  • let commercially, for profit
  • not let on long term tenancies (over 31 days) for more than 155 days in the year
  • available for letting as FHL for at least 210 days in the year
  • actually let on short term tenancies (under 31 days) for more than 105 days in the

Days you stayed there, or you let others stay there at non-commercial rates, do not count. There are special rules if, in one particular year, a property fails to maintain these.

Commercial Property

If you rent out property for commercial use then this is commercial property e.g. shops, business units etc. VAT may be charged on the purchase of such a property. Here is good read on Why Should You Invest in a Commercial Property?

You may exercise the option to tax such property and hence charge VAT on rents etc. but care should be taken as this is a complicated process that cannot be revoked easily. If you are thinking of this then do talk to us to see if it is beneficial to you.

House in Multiple Occupancy (HMO)

Some properties, especial student lets, are rented out on a house share basis i.e. to at least 3 people from different families, who share facilities. Such a property is classed as a House in Multiple Occupancy (HMO) and is subject to special rules.

  • You may need a licence from the local
  • It may be subject to Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS) risk
  • It may be subject to extra rules on Fire Safety

You will need to check your local council rules and budget for extra costs and delay for certification and inspections etc.


There are lots of other types of income from land that have no special rules – they are just taxable income from property that need to be reported on self-assessment tax returns, and will not specifically be covered here e.g.

  • Rent a drive parking space
  • Film set fees
  • Hunting, shooting and fishing rights

Setting up as a Landlord

Once you have decided what sort of a property you are going to own and how you are going to rent it out then you need to get all in place before the first tenants move in.


Few properties are 100% ready for habitation, especially by tenants who may call you out for any repairs. Further costs you may need to budget for, before tenants move in, are as follows:

  • Repairs & renovations to bring the property up to a standard to be rented
  • Fixtures & fittings to fit out the property ready for rental g. carpets.
  • Furniture if it is to be rented out
  • Mortgage payments & utility bills etc while getting the property ready for Fees for any testing or certificates required e.g., Energy, Gas, Fire safety, HMO etc. Solicitors’ fees for tenancy agreements etc.
  • Agents fees for finding & vetting
  • New meters to monitor use of


Before taking on your first tenant there are lots of documents you will need to consider drawing up or obtaining: –

  • Energy performance certificate (EPC)
  • Tenancy agreement
  • Inventory
  • Written permission from your mortgage lender
  • HMO licence
  • Gas safety certificate
  • Permission from landlord
  • Relevant Landlords insurance

Day to Day Management

The property you are renting out will need ongoing management, even if that is just checking that the rent and insurance have been paid. Any lease or tenancy agreement should state who is responsible for what, you as owner or the tenant, or maybe a resident’s association or the landlord of a block of flats. You may choose to delegate tasks to a managing agent or do them yourself as follows:

  • Collect rent
  • Chase arrears
  • Hold deposit – needs to be a registered deposit holder
  • Check inventory for new tenants
  • Point of contact for repairs or other issues
  • Arrange Repairs & maintenance
  • Inspect property regularly to check it is being looked after
  • Inspect property when tenants leave Ÿ Find new tenants and check them out Ÿ Maintain records
  • Pay bills, insurance, ground rent, etc


On a regular basis you should be collecting rental income for your property investment. From this you need to pay regular running costs including loan or mortgage repayments.

Income tax will need to be paid on annual profits from property, but taxable income may or may not be after deduction of mortgage interest and will not be after deduction of any repayments of loan capital.

Capital Gains

At some stage you may want to sell your investment. When you sell a property then you may receive more or less than you paid for it. The difference between selling price and purchase price is your basic capital gain.

Costs of buying and selling are allowable deductions from this gain before it is taxable.

If you have improved or enhanced the property these costs may also be deductible e.g. new conservatory or extension to a flat lease. So do keep a note of these costs as they incur, as evidence for deduction at point of sale.

There is no deduction for finance costs – loans or mortgages.

Expenses you can claim as a Landlord

HMRC insists that you declare all income gross, but what you claim as expenses is up to you. You can claim any running costs incurred by you for the property, wholly and exclusively. What you claim must be justifiable as being for the property and must not include, or otherwise actively disallow any private element.

Some costs may be associated with obtaining title to the property, rather than being running costs. Such expenses are not deductible from income but may be deductible from the Capital Gain on sale e.g. Solicitors fees on purchase of the property or extending the head lease to a flat.

Here are the main categories of expenses you may consider claiming: –


If you pay rent or ground rent for the property, then this is an allowable deduction from income received.

Business rates

You may pay the council tax or business rates, and if you do then this is an allowable deduction, also water rates.


Property insurance is tax allowable, as are warranties or breakdown cover for boilers etc. Life insurance premiums for mortgages are not allowable deductions.

Landlords Service charges

Cost that you as landlord are charged are also tax deductible from the income for that property, e.g.

  • Agents commission
  • Agents fees for finding tenants, taking inventory
  • Property management fees
  • Charges by flat management company or resident’s association

Utilities – gas, electricity, water, sewerage

It is usual for the tenant to arrange and pay for utilities, but if you do pay these bills for the property, e.g. between lets, then you can claim them as a deduction for tax purposes.

Gardening & Cleaning

Property upkeep costs that you pay for are also tax allowable. This may be regular gardening or one-off cleaning between tenants.


If you provide any other services to your tenants or property, then the costs of these are also tax allowable,

e.g. telephone, cable, satellite.


You may be able to claim some expenses for necessary visits to your property, so do keep records and discuss this with your DNS Accountant.

Property repairs and renovations

Works on the property, especially refurbishment works, will count as one of the following: –

Repairs – repairing an existing something to bring it back up to original purchased quality g. painting & decorating, a replacement bathroom or fitted kitchen, new roof, replacing old windows for double glazed ones, mending the boiler. These are tax allowable by deduction from taxable income.

Renewals – replacing a whole something that the property already had g. bed, freestanding cooker, curtains. These are tax allowable by deduction from taxable property income. Different rules apply for businesses.

New fixtures, fittings & furnishings – there is currently no tax relief available for the first-time purchase of furniture or equipment for a dwelling< Improvements – adding to your original purchase e.g. new conservatory, loft extension, adding a bathroom, putting in a new luxury This can include initial renovation costs if your purchase was not in a habitable state. These costs count as improvements to your original purchase so are tax deductible against the investment gain on sale of the property, not against income.

Tools & Equipment

Capital allowances may be available for plant and machinery for a commercial property or ladders and tools etc you may use on rental properties that are not part of the property being rented out e.g. a Scaffold tower. Capital allowances are not available for equipment etc in residential property unless FHL.

Professional fees

Professional fees for the property may be tax deductible, but need to be attributed to either income or sale/purchase to be deducted from the capital gain on sale.

  • Income deductions are for things like maintenance issues, certifications, financial advice, leases and disputes or debt
  • Capital Gains deductions are for buying, selling or establishing

Advertising & marketing

Advertising and marketing for tenants or guests is tax deductible from income. Selling costs are deductible from the capital gain on sale.

Other Direct costs

Any other costs you can directly attribute to the property may also be tax deductible e.g. stationery, phone calls, association membership.

Interest & finance charges

Tax reliefs are available for all costs of obtaining, loans to purchase property or release equity including interest, arrangement fees, bank charges, but not capital repayments. The purpose of the loan is key and it should be transparent to track.

These costs are mostly deductible from income before tax, however the rules for loan interest have changed recently for income tax on residential property income.

From April 2020, 20% of the interest may be deducted, as a credit from the income tax bill, instead of an income deduction. Note this can have a knock-on effect on other taxes e.g. student loan and child benefit repayments.

Example – The new interest rules for residential property

Alex lets out a property, which is subject to a large mortgage with an annual interest charge of £36,000. He just covers the interest payment with £36,000 as rent received per year. Alex’s salary is £28,000, so he pays income tax at 20%.

The below calculation compares Alex’s tax position if the property were commercial (the same as the old rules), with residential property which is subject to the new interest rules from 2020/21.

We have assumed the personal allowance is £12,500 and the basic rate band is £37,500.

Commercial (and old rules) New Residential 2020/21
Salary £28,000 £28,000
Letting income £36,000 £36,000
Interest deduction (£36,000) Nil
Total net income £28,000 £64,000
Personal allowance (£12,500) (£12,500)
Taxable income £15,500 £51,500
Basic rate band limit £37,500 £37,500
Tax charged @ 20% £3,100 £7,500
Tax charged @ 40% Nil £5,600
Tax credit on interest at 20% Nil (£7,200)
Total tax payable £3,100 £5,900


In 2020/21 all of the mortgage interest on residential property is disallowed. This increases his taxable income but not his actual income. His higher taxable income means he pays tax at 40% because his total income is over £60,000. Alex receives a tax credit to set against his tax liability, which is calculated as 20% of the lower of:

  • Finance costs not deducted from income (£36,000).
  • Income from the property business before interest (£36,000).
  • Total income exceeding allowances (£51,500).

Alex makes no actual profit on his lettings business, but in 2020/21 the residential letting business makes a taxable profit as the interest payments are disallowed. He thus pays tax of £2800 on the residential lettings business, although there is no cash available to pay that tax.


Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is a tax paid when properties change hands. It is paid by the purchaser, based on land or property value, location and nature (residential or commercial). It is due within 14 days with penalties and interest for late filing or payment.

There is 3% surcharge if this is not the only residential property owned, or a residential property is being purchased by a company.

Also, from April 2021 there will be a 2% surcharge if a residential property in England or Northern Ireland is purchased by a non-resident person or company.

Band: Market Price £ Normal Residential Rates Additional Rates Company Rates
0 – 125,000 0% 3% 3%
125,001 – 250,000 2% 5% 5%
250,001 – 500,000 5% 8% 8%
500,001 – 925,000 5% 8% 15%
925,001 – 1,500,000 10% 13% 15%
1,500,001 and over 12% 15% 15%


There are different rates for commercial property.

Band: Market Price £ Non-residential
0 – 150,000 0%
150,001 – 250,000 2%
Over 250,000 5%


Check your SDLT at https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/calculate-stamp-duty-land-tax/#/intro

Income Tax

Income tax is generally payable on rental income but Buy-to-let landlords can offset certain ‘allowable expenses’ incurred in the process of letting out a property in order to minimise it.

Income tax is charged on both annual investment profits and trading profits, at the usual rates of 0%, 20%, 40% or 45%.

National insurance may additionally be charged on trading profits, at self-employed rates of 0%, 9% or 2%

Student loan repayment may also become payable at 9% on property income, and property income can trigger child benefit rebate.

Take care over the impact of the new interest rules, as interest no longer reduces income before tax, so this change alone can take you into the next tax bracket and extra taxes on income.

Capital Gains Tax

There is likely to be a taxable Capital Gain on the sale of any property that has not been your main family home for the whole period of ownership. Capital Gains tax and returns are now due for submission and payment within 30 days of sale, as well as reporting on self-assessment personal tax returns.

Gains are split between beneficial owners in proportion to underlying ownership, before being taxed

For a property that has at any time been your main family home then there is private residence relief that may reduce your capital gain before tax as follows: –

  • The gain is time apportioned evenly over the period of
  • The gain attributable to the period when it was your main family home, or elected to be so, is tax free (provided the property was in your country of residency).
  • The gain attributable to the last 9 months of ownership is tax

If a property, or part of the property, was treated as your main home either before, during, or after the time it was let out and you have been sharing the home with the tenant e.g. lodger, bed and breakfast etc. then there is a lettings relief such that the property gain is not taxable.

The old letting relief, for property let after you moved out, of up to £40,000 deduction per owner is abolished for sales after 5th April 2020.

There is an annual tax-free capital gains tax allowance (£12,000 for 2019/20), whereby the first £12.000 of gains made in the year are not taxed.

Taxable gains are then added to income for the year of sale and taxed accordingly. Residential property gains are taxed at 20% if in the basic rate band and 28% if above; other gains, including those on commercial property, are taxed at 10% or 20%.

Remember if handing on a property at below market value e.g. as a gift, or when incorporating, then the capital gain is calculated based on market value not proceeds.

It is a good idea to plan, in advance, for this liability, to reduce taxes and avoid penalties. Talk to your DNS accountant about your potential liability.

Inheritance Tax

Properties are investment assets so subject to inheritance tax whether in or outside a limited company shell, and hence subject to inheritance tax on death.

There are exemptions for gifts made more than seven years before you die, amounts left to your spouse/civil partner or to charities, and the value of your estate falling in the nil rate band.

This nil rate band is frozen at £325,000 until 6 April 2021, but any unused nil rate band may be passed on to your spouse/ civil partner. From April 2017 there will also be a property related nil rate band of £100,000 per person that can be set against a property that has been your home.

Hence, there are tax planning opportunities for handing property to the next generation, so do talk to Target Accounting.

Tenants & Leases

When you have a rental property then you need to consider tenants as well as the property itself. You want good tenants who will:

  • Pay on time every
  • Look after the
  • Use the property
  • Not cause too much hassle to you or

Choosing a tenant

  • What sort of tenant do you want? – Student, professional,
  • Is your property in a good area to attract that sort of tenant?
  • Will that sort of tenant stay, be happy in that area? – or disturb

Where to find them

  • Where are you going to look for tenants? – University,
  • Are you going to use an agent or find your own tenants?
  • A good property in a good area may attract its own
  • You may already have friends or family etc in

Checking them out

  • What sort of checks do you want to make? Credit,
  • Will you use an agent to do this? – check out the agent too and do not skip the checks, even for
  • Should you get a bigger deposit? – more risk = bigger
  • What about Guarantors? – as secondary
  • And insurance or guarantees? – to cover rent

Drawing up leases

  • What type of lease do you want? Short/ long, with Ÿ What do you want in the lease? Obligations and penalties. Ÿ What must you have in the lease? Health & Safety.
  • Will you use an agent or solicitors to do this? Make sure it is


Find out your rights and the tenants’ rights for the leases you put in place. Difficult tenants will know the rules and so do not get caught out by them. And keep up to date.

No rent

What happens if you do not get paid? Is this covered on your insurance or by your agents? Can you evict tenants? Have you budgeted for the costs and the time it takes to go through the courts etc?


What can you deduct from deposits? What will you charge on to tenants?


The Government are always changing the rules so make sure you keep up to date with appropriate regulations for your property. Property Management Agents can be very useful in this respect.

  • Fire regulations – Alarms, signs, fire escapes, fire doors etc – get your property checked
  • Health and Safety –access, lighting, trip hazards – keep your property well
  • Asbestos report for older
  • Building regulation for any changes g. new windows or knocking down walls.
  • Energy certificates.
  • Gas safety certificates.
  • Electrical Appliance
  • Local Licencing requirements – for your area, or type of

Property Management

Once you have a tenant then you will need to decide who does what.

  • Who is going to collet the rent? – Check out agents
  • The taking and keeping of deposits is now regulated
  • You may have included some obligations in the lease – g. decoration
  • Who is going to answer when the tenant rings in the middle of the night?
  • Who is going to arrange for that tap to be fixed?
  • Who is going to pay bills? – the agent may do so out of rents collected

Decision Making

Any property you buy will usually be a long-term investment. As such decisions you make today could have long range impact or no impact as the rules are continually changing

Personal circumstances can also influence what type of property is beneficial for you

Remember to consider location. Can you keep an eye on it, is it in a good location to find and keep tenants for income and appreciate in value for a capital gain?

Do keep your options open and review your position regularly.

For planning, advice, accounts, taxes and tax returns We are here to help.