Renting out a property

Updated on 10 May 2016

Do you charge rent to someone else for living in a property that you own? Having income from property means you need to consider your tax position, tell HMRC about it and possibly pay extra tax if you make a profit.

Here, we aim to explain how under the following headings:

What is income from property?

Income from property is generally any income from land or buildings, including rental income from a flat or house or from part of a flat or house, such as a room or a parking space. Rental income from other sources, for example a caravan, a caravan pitch or a houseboat, is also included.

Income from property does not include income from a trade, for example farming, running a hotel or carrying on an unrelated business, for example arts and crafts or hairdressing, from home. Profits relating to a trade are taxable as self-employment income. You can find out more in our section on self-employment.

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Do I have to pay tax on income from property?

Unfortunately, probably yes you do have to pay tax on property income! Property income profits are taxable, unless they fall within one of the specific reliefs.

If the reliefs do not apply to your income, then you will need to pay income tax on any profits – broadly, property income less allowable expenses.

‘Income’ is normally the rent due from the tenants, but also taxable are payments in kind, for example, gardening or cleaning the property instead of paying rent. For more information, see the section below on working out your rental profits.

Rents are not usually taxed before you get them – unless you live abroad and the non-resident landlord scheme applies. This means you may have to pay tax direct to HMRC. You can find more information on the GOV.UK website. See ‘do I need to complete a tax return?’ for more information.

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Do I have to pay UK tax on income from a property overseas?

The answer depends on your circumstances. If you are a UK taxpayer then you probably at least have to tell HMRC about your income from overseas property. You might be able to claim relief against your UK tax bill if you have paid foreign tax on the income.

Find out more on residence, domicile and how foreign income is taxed in our 'migrants section'.

Importantly, income from overseas property is not added together with UK property income and you have to show it separately as foreign income if you complete a self assessment tax return.

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What will the rate of tax be on my property income?

If your property income is taxable, you will pay tax at the relevant income tax rate, after employment income and other earned income, such as self-employment profits or pension income, has been taken into account.

The tax rate will be:

  • 0% if your total employment income, earned income and property income all fall within your personal allowance;
  • 20% if you are a basic rate taxpayer;
  • 40% if you are a higher rate taxpayer; or
  • 45% if you pay the top ‘additional’ rate of tax.

If you are a Scottish taxpayer, you will pay tax at the appropriate rates according to the Scottish rate of income tax. There is more information in our 'tax basics section'.

For the bands of income which are taxable at each rate above, see our ‘tax and NIC rates’ page.

As property income is treated as ‘unearned’ income, you will not need to pay National Insurance contributions (NIC) on it.

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What tax reliefs are available for income from property?

Letting out a room in your home

‘Rent a room’ relief may be available for the first £7,500 for 2016/17 (£4,250 for 2015/16) of income arising from renting out a room in your main residence. We discuss this in further detail in our ‘rent a room’ section.

Furnished holiday lettings

There are also special rules for furnished holiday lettings – property which is let out on a short term, usually seasonal basis, to tourists and visitors – which are not discussed further here. HMRC produce a helpsheet which you might find useful if you have this type of income. You can find the helpsheet on the GOV.UK website.

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How do I work out the profits on my property income for tax, and what are allowable expenses?

Rental profits are equal to the amount of income you are due to receive from letting, less any ‘allowable expenses’.

What is ‘income’?

Note that we say above ‘income you are due to receive’ rather than ‘income you have received’. This means that you pay tax on the rent that your tenant should have paid you rather than what they actually paid you.

Let us say that Simon is renting a property from you and you agree he will pay you £400 a month, but he gets behind with the rent. You still have to pay tax on the £400 a month he was due to pay you, even though you did not actually get it.

But if it becomes clear that you are never going to recover the money you are owed, you might be able to claim this as an expense against the rent – known as a ‘bad debt’.

What are ‘allowable expenses’?

Allowable expenses are basically expenditure, other than capital expenditure, like improvements to the property, incurred ‘wholly and exclusively’ for the purposes of the rental, for example:

  • the cost of repairs and renewals which are necessary to maintain the property in a suitable condition to let out. Note that if you spend money on improving a property, such as adding an extension, or have to do work to the property to make it suitable to rent out when you first let it, this is not allowable;
  • the cost of insurance;
  • costs of finding a tenant, such as advertising;
  • legal costs on the renewal of a letting agreement;
  • letting agents’ fees, if you use one;
  • interest on money borrowed to purchase or improve the property. Note that if you have a repayment mortgage, the amount you pay off the loan balance – the ‘capital’ element – is not an allowable expense.

From April 2016, you can deduct the costs you actually incur on replacing furnishings, appliances and kitchenware in the property. You can claim relief for a like-for-like, or nearest modern equivalent, replacement. You can also claim the costs of disposing of the old asset, although you have to set off anything you receive for the old asset against those costs first.

This replacement relief is instead of 'wear and tear' allowance, which was available until April 2016 if you let a property which was furnished – meaning that you supplied beds, sofas, white goods and so forth so that someone could live in it without needing their own furniture. Note that the replacement relief for furnishings is available to all landlords, not just those who let out fully-furnished properties.

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My tenant has paid a deposit up front. Do I have to pay tax on it?

This is a common point of confusion. Your tenant pays you, say, two months’ rent up front as a deposit in case of damage while they are occupying the property. You need to know whether you include it when working out your taxable rental income.

The answer, assuming the terms of the agreement treat the deposit as refundable to the tenant if there is no damage, is that you do not include the deposit at the time you receive it. Technically the money is not really ‘yours’ anyway and you have to protect it in a government scheme.

But when the tenant moves out, let us say you agree that you will keep £200 of the deposit for repairing the plaster on the hallway wall, which has been damaged when the tenant was moving furniture. At that point, the £200 you keep is included in your taxable rental income, but the rest of the deposit returned to the tenant is not. The cost of repairing the wall is also an allowable expense, so effectively the two are likely to cancel each other out.

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What was ‘wear and tear’ allowance and how was it calculated?

Note that 'wear and tear' allowance is no longer available from April 2016.

Prior to April 2016, if you let out a furnished residence, you could deduct a ‘wear and tear’ allowance of 10% of your rental receipts. You had to take off any ‘tenant’s expenses’ that you had paid – these are expenses which are paid by you, but which would normally be paid by tenants, such as gas, electricity or council tax.

Some people chose to claim a wear and tear allowance as it could be simpler than keeping track of all of the renewals relating to the letting.

If you elected to claim a wear and tear allowance, you could not claim a deduction for the actual amount you spent on buying and replacing the items covered by the allowance – such as fridges, freezers, beds, sofas and other furniture. You could, however, claim for repairing the items if they broke down. You could also still claim for the cost of replacing fixtures which are an integral part of the building, for example washbasins or baths.

You could still claim for other allowable expenses, like the cost of finding a tenant and so on.

Example

Billy lets out a property which is furnished. The rental income is £4,000, so in 2015/16 he elects to claim wear and tear allowance of 10% of the rents – that is, £400. In the same tax year, the fridge breaks down and the engineer’s fee is £100, so Billy can also claim the repair cost. But had the fridge been broken beyond repair and cost £250 to replace, Billy could not have claimed the replacement cost on top of the wear and tear allowance.

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What if I lose money – make a ‘loss’ – from property?

If you lose money – make a ‘loss’ – from renting out a property – that is, your allowable expenses are more than your income – you may be able to take it off a profit from renting out another property, as generally all your rental income is treated as one ‘rental business’.

Otherwise, the loss will generally be carried forward to the next tax year and deducted against the profit for that year, if you make one.

Example

Terry lets out a flat and in the 2015/16 tax year makes a loss of £500 – the old windows were rotten so he had to pay for replacements which wiped out his rent for the year.

In 2016/17, there are no major costs so his rental profit from the flat is £4,000.

Terry can carry forward the 2015/16 loss of £500 to 2016/17, meaning he only has to pay tax on £3,500 of rental income in 2016/17. That is, the £4,000 profit he made for 2016/17, minus the loss of £500 from the year before.

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Does property income count towards my earnings for pension contributions?

Property income does not normally count as relevant earnings for pension contribution purposes as it is treated as ‘unearned’ income.

But if you are running a business from a property, such as a bed and breakfast, and your profits are treated as being from a trade, those are ‘earnings’ for pension purposes.

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Do I need to complete a tax return?

You may need to complete a tax return if you have rental income which is taxable, although sometimes HMRC can collect the tax on a small amount of rents against your Pay As You Earn (PAYE) code if you are an employee or a pensioner.

More information on needing to complete a tax return can be found in our separate guidance on this topic.

If you start getting rental income, you should tell HMRC about it – contact them as soon as possible, but at the latest by 5 October following the end of the tax year in which you start to let the property. That is, if you start getting rental income in the year to 5 April 2017, tell HMRC by 5 October 2017.

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What happens if I sell a property or let property out for a longer term?

Capital gains tax can arise if you make a disposal of an asset. That might not be selling it altogether, but it could be giving away part of it or even giving someone a partial interest in a property – which could mean granting someone a ‘lease’ and them continuing to pay you some rent.

The rental rules we explained above assume that you are only letting out property on a short term basis. If you are granting a let or lease for a longer term – 50 years or more – you will need to consider taking professional advice from a solicitor and a tax adviser. You can find an adviser on the Chartered Institute of Taxation website.

If the property has ever been your own home, you might qualify for relief from capital gains tax. But again, we would suggest you take advice.

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Where can I find more information on property tax issues?

You can find more information on the rent a room scheme on the dedicated page in this section.

If you live abroad, you may need to find out more from the GOV.UK website about the non-resident landlord scheme.

If you have income from overseas property and have come to the UK from abroad, you might find our 'migrants section' helpful.

More on the special rules for furnished holiday lettings can be found on the GOV.UK website.

You need to be careful about capital gains tax if you sell or dispose of a property – in whole or in part. You may need to consult a tax adviser for help. You can find an adviser on the Chartered Institute of Taxation website.

For more general information on your responsibilities if you are letting out a property, visit the GOV.UK website. There are separate sections for landlords in England and Wales and landlords in Scotland. If you live in Northern Ireland, you should go to the nidirect website.

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