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Navigating the new normal in buy-to-let

The UK housing market has opened up since the end of May, with visual inspections resuming albeit more quickly in England. This means that buy-to-let mortgage lenders are also returning to a more normal approach to business. However, the recovery of the market will take time.

Positive improvements in the marketplace have seen many lenders launching new product ranges, offering higher loan-to-values (LTVs) particularly in the 75 per cent LTV bracket, providing more options for landlords. However, there is still a lack of competition in the 80 per cent LTV bracket which could create difficulties for landlords who are more highly leveraged when looking to remortgage.

Now that physical valuations can be carried out, some lenders have returned to more complex lending such as on HMOs, multi-unit blocks and limited company applications. Foundation Home Loans recently launched a selection of packager exclusives for standard and large HMOs which are available through selected partners including ourselves. However, it was disappointing to see Barclays withdraw from both multi-unit and limited company lending.

There are also competitively priced buy-to-let mortgages available for standard properties from high street lenders and some excellent product transfer rates for existing customers, including a 1 per cent 1-year fixed rate currently being offered by TMW.

It is likely that the marketplace will continue to develop in the coming weeks as more lenders respond to the new normal and we may see more options in niche areas of lending such as for holiday let properties.

There has been a fair amount of concern about the impact of coronavirus on the ability of tenants to pay rent during the crisis and the effect this could have on landlords. Given the government ban on starting the eviction process before the end of August, some pundits predicted that there could be a surge in eviction applications post-Covid-19. However, a poll commissioned by the RNLA questioned over 2000 tenants and 90 per cent had been paying their rent as usual, which suggests that a concern over a spike in evictions could be unfounded. 84 per cent had not needed any support from their landlord, and of those that did three quarters received a positive outcome.

Even though this report paints a good picture, there are some landlords having trouble collecting rent for their properties who have applied for a mortgage holiday with their buy-to-let lender. This may provide a short-term solution, but how will it affect a landlord's ability to access finance post-coronavirus?

Although applying for a mortgage holiday will not affect a customer's credit file, lenders may reasonably ask why it was needed. As they assess the risk of lending to an applicant, lenders will want reassurance that there aren't any existing financial issues with the property, portfolio or business in question. This may make it more complicated for those who have taken a mortgage holiday when they seek further finance, but it remains to be seen how this will play out.

As the UK housing market gains momentum, landlords may be looking for their next opportunity to expand their portfolio and considering the most cost-effective way of doing this. There have been questions around whether landlords who run their property business via a limited company could use the government-backed Bounce Back Loan Scheme to fund further property purchases.

Small businesses can apply for up to £50,000 with no interest to pay for the first 12 months, after which the interest rate is 2.5 per cent. This could seem like a relatively cheap way to raise a deposit; however, lenders do not normally accept loans as a source of deposit and using the BBLS to profit from further property purchases is not the intention of the scheme.

Overall, the buy-to-let mortgage market is making a steady recovery and this is likely to continue in the coming weeks and months, providing more options for landlord clients.

This website is aimed at mortgage intermediaries and investment professionals only and is not intended to be relied upon by borrowers or investors.

© The Business Mortgage Company Limited: registered in England and Wales no. 5390573. Regus House, Malthouse Avenue, Cardiff Gate Business Park, Mid Glamorgan, Cardiff, CF23 8RU.

The Business Mortgage Company Services Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 302764) to transact regulated mortgages and registered as a Consumer buy-to-let arranger. The FCA does not regulate some investment mortgage contracts.