Page last updated at 05:21 GMT, Wednesday, 10 June 2009 06:21 UK

Buy-to-let landlords 'hit harder'

By Richard Scott
Personal finance reporter, BBC News

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Andrew Arbour is a buy-to-let landlord who is still doing well. He blames lack of research for the rise in repossessions

Buy-to-let landlords are losing their properties at over three times the rate of other homeowners, research shows.

Council of Mortgage Lenders figures show 1,700 buy-to-let properties were repossessed by lenders in the first three months of this year.

But landlords lost 4,100 properties when cases of lenders appointing a receiver of rent are included.

A receiver of rent collects rent on behalf of a lender when the landlord defaults on the mortgage.

The recession is also making buy-to-let mortgages much harder to come by.

Popular process

As the downturn bites, lenders are appointing more receivers of rent.

In this process, a tenant is allowed to remain in a property instead of losing their home.

It also gives the lender time to decide what to do with the property, whilst offsetting the mortgage interest against the rent. That in turn can help reduce the arrears faced by the landlord.

In the first three months of 2008, there were just 300 receivers of rent appointed, compared with 900 repossessions.

In the first three months of this year 2,400 receivers of rent were appointed - an eight fold increase and far more than the number of buy-to-let repossessions.

Flats in Birmingham
City centre flats were popular among buy-to-let investors

This mean that 0.35% of buy-to-let properties were taken back by lenders - more than three times the rate in the owner occupier markets where 0.11% of mortgaged properties were lost.

Many landlords got into trouble after paying too much for buy-to-let flats.

Estate agents talk of investors buying places which they hadn't seen, or which hadn't been built yet in a desperate race for property riches.

But for many that race has been well and truly lost.

Rents have often not lived up to expectations, and landlords have struggled to pay the mortgage.

And with falling house prices - which have often hit city centre flats especially hard - many could not afford to sell either.

Lenders get tougher

The situation has been made more difficult by lenders getting tougher over mortgages, with buy-to-let loans particularly badly affected.

Figures from the financial comparison company, Moneyfacts, show at the peak of the boom in September 2007 there were 3,662 different buy to let mortgages available.

Last month there were just 218 - a fall of 94%.

And those mortgages that are available need bigger deposits.

At the beginning of last year it was easy to get a buy to let mortgage with a 15% deposit. Now borrowers need a 25% deposit to have any chance.

All of this is hitting the number of buy-to- let mortgages taken out. In the first three months of this year there were 22,400 new buy to let mortgages.

Even if the decline halted and each subsequent quarter were the same that would mean a total of 89,600 new buy to let mortgages being taken out in 2009.

Compare that with the height of the boom two years ago - when 346,000 buy to let mortgages were snapped up in just twelve months.



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