There may be times when a property owner decides not to charge a market rent or lets the property rent free. This will mean you will be restricted on the amount of expenses you can claim.
PIM2130 Properties not let at a commercial rent
Expenses incurred by a customer on a property occupied rent free by, for example, a relative are likely to be incurred for personal or philanthropic purposes – to provide that person with a home. The same applies where the property is let at less than a commercial rate or isn’t let on commercial terms.
Unless the landlord charges a full market rent for a property (and imposes normal market lease conditions) it is unlikely that the expenses of the property are incurred wholly and exclusively for business purposes (PIM2010). So, strictly, they can’t be deducted in arriving at rental business profits. However, if the customer lets a property below the market rate (as opposed to providing it rent-free), they can deduct the expenses of that property up to the rent they get from it. This means that the uncommercially let property produces neither a profit nor a loss, but the excess expenses cannot be carried forward to be used in a later year.
A relative or friend may ‘house sit’ between normal lettings on commercial terms. Provided the property is genuinely available for commercial letting and the landlord is actively seeking tenants they can deduct the expenditure incurred on that property in the normal way.
Wholly and exclusively rule
Most of the trading expenses rules are applied to property income (see PIM1100 onwards). This includes the ‘wholly and exclusively’ rule which says that expenses cannot be deducted unless they are incurred wholly and exclusively for business purposes.
Dual purpose expenditure
Strictly, if an expense is not wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the property business, it may not be deducted. In practice, though, some dual purpose expenses include an obvious part which is for the purposes of the business. We usually allow the deduction of a proportion of expenses like that.
In summary – rent free or less than market value
- Its unlikely that the expenses will be incurred wholly and exclusively for business purposes
- Expenses not incurred for business expenses are excluded or restricted
- Where a property is let below market rate, you can only deduct expenses up to the value of the rent received
- You can not use rent free or less market rent to produce a loss for tax purposes. Any excess losses can not be offset against other rental profits or carried forward.
What about Covid?
- Tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. The government has made a strong package of financial support available to tenants, and where they can pay the rent as normal, they should do. Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.
- In many, if not most cases, the COVID-19 outbreak will not affect tenants’ ability to pay rent. If a tenant’s ability to pay will be affected, it’s important that they have an early conversation with their landlord. Rent levels agreed in the tenancy agreement remain legally due and tenants should discuss with their landlord if they are in difficulty.