UK's biggest buy-to-let landlords sell up as tax grab hits

Fergus and Judith Wilson
Fergus and Judith Wilson

Britain's biggest buy-to-let landlords have said they plan to sell their entire portfolio of more than 900 homes - ahead of George Osborne's tax changes that are set to clobber property investors.

Fergus and Judith Wilson say the properties, in Kent, will go to a foreign consortium, with a price tag of more than £250 million. They've already sold 100 houses to Chinese and Indian investors for £25 million.

Existing tenants won't be adversely affected, they say.

The couple, both former maths teachers, first started investing in the buy-to-let market in the 1990s. They soon had a huge portfolio - at one point, they were snapping up several properties a day.

They've caused their fair share of controversy, last year sending eviction notices to 200 tenants: saying that eastern European migrants were more reliable than single mothers on welfare.

And now, in a statement to the Guardian, Mr Wilson says he's had enough. "He is sorry to be giving up but common sense must prevail. He is 67 years old and getting no younger," he writes.

"Buy-to-let became an obsession for Fergus Wilson. He is a self-confessed BTL junkie. Each day I must have my daily fix. I look up prices and say to myself what a lucky man I am."

The Wilsons' decision comes at a time when many buy-to-let landlords are questioning the viability of their business.

The government recently introduced changes to stamp duty that will see second home owners, including buy-to-let landlords, paying an extra three percentage points on each stamp duty band.

And in his budget in July, chancellor George Osborne announced that a tax relief worth £14 billion to buy-to-let landlords was set for the chop.

As a result, says Adrian Gill, director of Your Move and Reeds Rains, one in ten UK landlords is considering selling up.

"Landlords could be forgiven for feeling a little deflated at the moment, and it's worrying to see this may motivate many to reconsider their investment," he says.

"The government's tax changes appear to be making investing in buy-to-let less attractive because of the seemingly smaller profits margins on offer in the future. If a 10th of landlords do decide to leave the industry, this would seriously shrink the number of properties available for tenants."

Mr Wilson has told the Financial Times that changes in taxation and mortgage lending mean that it would now be impossible to build up a property empire like his.