Overseas landlords shun the UK, as tax changes bite

new development in London's Docklands

The proportion of foreign landlords owning property in the UK has fallen to a new low, according to the country's largest letting agent.

Countrywide - which lets 90,000 properties - said just 5% of British homes now have overseas owners, compared with 12% in 2010.

Foreign investors have previously been blamed for pushing up house prices.

The fall is most evident in London, where the proportion of overseas landlords has fallen from 26% to 11%.

Tax changes appear to have discouraged some of them, while others have bought property in cheaper areas instead.

The news was welcomed by tenants groups, who said foreign owners had clearly benefited from tax loopholes in the past.

"This implies that there has been a gradual net sell-off, which demonstrates that government taxation of foreign property is having some impact in deterring speculation," said Dan Wilson Craw, director of Generation Rent.

"Sadly, that has not prevented house prices rising by more than inflation between 2013 and 2016, pricing millions of renters out of home ownership."

Tax hit

The biggest fall in foreign ownership in London has been amongst Europeans. In 2010 they made up 39% of foreign investors, but they now account for 28%.

Asians, including those from Hong Kong, have taken over as the biggest London buyers.

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While the decline in sterling has made UK properties relatively cheaper for foreign investors since June 2016, landlords have been hit by earlier tax rises.

Investors who already own a property have had to pay a 3% surcharge on Stamp Duty (Land and Buildings Transaction Tax in Scotland) since April 2016.

And since April 2012, companies buying property in the UK have also been liable for the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED).

This amounts to £3,500 a year for properties worth between £500,000 and £1m, or £7,050 for those worth over £2m.

"A steady increase in foreign investors' tax bills combined with more recent falling expectations of price growth in London has led to a decline in foreign investment in buy-to-let," said Johnny Morris, research director at Countrywide.

"As well as having to contend with increased stamp duty and ATED, overseas investors also saw the removal of capital gains tax exemptions in 2015."

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