Unlikely location was UK’s house price rise hotspot of 2016…

It is perhaps a sign of how difficult it is to read the UK housing market right now that the latest government figures show the location with the highest price rise in 2016 wasn’t London or another big city – but was, instead, the Shetland Isles.

The Scottish islands recorded a rise of 26 per cent in 2016 according to the Office for National Statistics – that’s more than three times the all-UK average of 7.2 per cent, which was the highest national annual rate recorded since last July.

The 2016 increase takes the average price of a home in the UK to £219,544 – a year earlier it was around £205,000.

Outside of the Shetland Isles, the region with the largest increase was the East of England where prices rose 11.3 per cent, followed by the South East on 8.5 per cent.

London of course remains the region with the highest average house price at £484,000.

”These numbers bear out what we have seen in other recent surveys – that prices although still modestly rising are very much underpinned by a shortage of stock and a dearth of transaction activity” according to Jeremy Leaf, the north London estate agent and former RICS residential chairman.

“The picture is particularly worrying in London where there has been a sharp fall in sales” he adds.

Mortgage arrears plunge to 35-year low

The number of properties taken into possession last year declined by almost 25 per cent and has hit the lowest level in 35 years.

Data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders reveals that last year’s total of 7,700 cases of possession compared with 10,200 in 2015, and was the lowest number since 1982.

Over the course of 2016, the number of mortgages in arrears also fell by seven per cent.

However, although the data shows a clear underlying downward trend in the number of possessions, the CML cautions that care is needed in making annual comparisons. This is because the timing of some possessions last year may have been affected by a court case that caused lenders to review their processes.

The number of possession cases declined in the fourth quarter of 2016, as well as over the year as a whole. In the final three months, 1,800 homes were taken into possession, down from 1,900 in the preceding quarter and 2,200 in the final quarter of 2015.

At the end of last year, there were 94,100 mortgages with arrears of 2.5% or more of the outstanding balance, a slight increase on the total of 93,300 at the end of the third quarter. But that compared to a total of 101,700 at the end of 2015.

Across the market as a whole, there was significant improvement last year in the number of mortgages with more modest levels of arrears – up to five per cent of the outstanding balance.

There was, however, an increase over 2016 in the number of mortgages with arrears of more than 10 per cent of the balance, from 23,700 to 26,000.  But this figure may also have been distorted by the timing of possession actions.

In the buy-to-let sector, the number of mortgages in arrears was unchanged in the fourth quarter of last year, at 5,000, but 11 per cent lower than at the end of 2015.

The number of owner-occupier mortgages in arrears edged upwards in the final quarter of last year, from 88,300 to 89,200, but was lower than the total at the end of the previous year.

Here are all 29 key points in the Housing White Paper

The government has set out 29 key points in its Housing White Paper.

Introducing it in the Commons this afternoon, Communities Secretery Sajid Javid confirmed many of the policies already announced or leaked in recent days and weeks.

He said that in addition to the ban on letting agents’ fees levied on tenants in England, he would “go further” to introduce longer tenancies and to bring in more institutional investment in rental housing, claiming: “We’ll improve safeguards [for tenants] in the private rented sector.” Build To Rent – the institutional investment creating purpose-built homes to let – will have three year tenancies as standard.

He also said he would maintain the Starter Homes initiative introduced by the Cameron government and would “tackle the scourge of unfair leasehold terms, too often forced on to hard-pressed homebuyers” by new build developers.

He also pledged that he would seek to cut planning red tape, oblige land-owning private developers to undertake a ‘use it or lose it’ policy with the risk of losing planning consent, and once again pledged to free public land for house building.

There would be no threat to the Green Belt, he promised.

All 29 policies outlined in the White Paper are here:

1. Making sure every part of the country has an up-to-date, sufficiently ambitious plan so that local communities decide where development should go;

2. Simplifying plan-making and making it more transparent, so it’s easier for communities to produce plans and easier for developers to follow them;

3. Ensuring that plans start from an honest assessment of the need for new homes, and that local authorities work with their neighbours, so that difficult decisions are not ducked;

4. Clarifying what land is available for new housing, through greater transparency over who owns land and the options held on it;

5. Making more land available for homes in the right places, by maximising the contribution from brown eld and surplus public land, regenerating estates, releasing more small and medium-sized sites, allowing rural communities to grow and making it easier to build new settlements;

6. Maintaining existing strong protections for the Green Belt, and clarifying that Green Belt boundaries should be amended only in exceptional circumstances when local authorities can demonstrate that they have fully examined all other reasonable options for meeting their identi ed housing requirements;

7. Giving communities a stronger voice in the design of new housing to drive up the quality and character of new development, building on the success of neighbourhood planning; and

8. Making better use of land for housing by encouraging higher densities, where appropriate, such as in urban locations where there is high housing demand; and by reviewing space standards;
9. Providing greater certainty for authorities that have planned for new homes and reducing the scope for local and neighbourhood plans to be undermined by changing the way that land supply for housing is assessed;

10. Boosting local authority capacity and capability to deliver, improving the speed and quality with which planning cases are handled, while deterring unnecessary appeals;

11. Ensuring infrastructure is provided in the right place at the right time by coordinating Government investment and through the targeting of the £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund;

12. Securing timely connections to utilities so that this does not hold up getting homes built;

13. Supporting developers to build out more quickly by tackling unnecessary delays caused by planning conditions, facilitating the strategic licensing of protected species and exploring a new approach to how developers contribute to infrastructure;

14.Taking steps to address skills shortages by growing the construction workforce;

15. Holding developers to account for the delivery of new homes through better and more transparent data and sharper tools to drive up delivery; and

16. Holding local authorities to account through a new housing delivery test.

17. Backing small and medium-sized builders to grow, including through the Home Building Fund;

18. Supporting custom-build homes with greater access to land and nance, giving more people more choice over the design of their home;

19. Bringing in new contractors through our Accelerated Construction programme that can build homes more quickly than traditional builders;

20. Encouraging more institutional investors into housing, including for building more homes for private rent, and encouraging family- friendly tenancies;

21. Supporting housing associations and local authorities to build more homes; and

22. Boosting productivity and innovation by encouraging modern methods of construction in house building;

23. Continuing to support people to buy their own home – through Help to Buy and Starter Homes;

24. Helping households who are priced out of the market to afford a decent home that is right for them through our investment in the Affordable Homes Programme;

25. Making renting fairer for tenants;

26. Taking action to promote transparency and fairness for the growing number of leaseholders;

27. Improving neighbourhoods by continuing to crack down on empty homes, and supporting areas most affected by second homes;

28. Encouraging the development of housing that meets the needs of our future population and helping the most vulnerable who need support with their housing, developing a sustainable and workable approach to funding supported housing in the future; and

29. Doing more to prevent homelessness by supporting households at risk before they reach crisis point as well as reducing rough sleeping

Letting Fees

Letting Fees:
The announcement by the Chancellor during the Autumn Statement that he would move to ban letting agent fees caused consternation in the private rented sector (PRS), especially as it follows many other seemingly negative changes for landlords and letting agents over the last year.
This is as yet another proposed change on which Government will need to consult, assess its impact, think through all its implications and find time to implement.
In the meantime there is no change. Rics says: “There are so far two routes to government’s implementation: full consultation and primary legislation (which is unlikely to see change during 2017) and curtailed consultation and secondary legislation under existing statute, such as Competition & Consumer Regulations (this would make change more rapid and within 2017)”
The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) whose jurisdiction this issue comes under has confirmed that they are looking at consulting early this year and are in favour of taking the primary legislative route. This gives the sector much more time to influence and to then adapt to what is decided. For tenants struggling with their budgets and the competitive letting market that exists in places like London, this will seem like a long desired relief.
For the letting industry, it comes as another administrative hurdle and one which upsets the established balance of fees, but some agents have abused this, and it could be argued, they have brought it on themselves. But the direction of travel is in-line with recent changes in Scotland, and the focus on the relief of those ‘just about managing’ in society, identified in recent speeches by the Prime Minister since the result of the EU Referendum.
However, as with other recent changes in the private rented sector (PRS), the unintended consequences may see rents actually rise if these costs are passed on, or if not, many smaller landlords exiting the market and reducing the overall stock available for rent. This applies further pressure, alongside stamp duty and mortgage interest rate relief changes, in a market with a shortage of rentals in many areas.
It is unlikely the government’s initiatives on more housing provision, Build to Rent for example, will be sufficient to “pick up the slack”, but a Housing White Paper due out soon should give more detail on the government’s long-term thinking on housing and renting regulations. Although the tenant fees issue yes or no debate appears to have been concluded, given the Chancellor’s remarks in the Autumn Statement, industry experts are looking for rules that strike the right balance between allowing letting agents to recover their reasonable costs in determining a tenant’s suitability to rent a property, and protecting tenants from suffering excessive charges by less scrupulous agents.
David Cox, managing director of the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA), said: “A ban on letting agent fees is a draconian measure, and will have a profoundly negative impact on the rental market. It will be the fourth assault on the sector in just over a year, and do little to help cash-poor renters save enough to get on the housing ladder.”
For landlords and tenants, the Chancellor’s move won’t help those who are ‘just about managing’ as any rises in letting agents’ fees will hit both. Millennials in particular, critics say, since they were increasingly likely to rent.
Some 24 per cent of those aged 25 to 34 rented privately in 2004-05, according to the official English Housing Survey; 10 years on, this has risen to 46 per cent. The proportion of the same age group buying with a mortgage fell from 54 per cent to 34 per cent over the period.
The Fair Fees Forum
A recent communique from the National Approve Letting Scheme (NALS) attended by leading industry players gives a flavour of the consultation process and the issues involved.
1. The Fair Fees Forum met on Friday 13 January
2. Attendees at the Forum included; Belvoir, Chestertons, the Connells Group, Countrywide, Hamptons, Hunters, LSL Property Services, Northwood, Savills, Spicerhaart, Touchstone, Winkworth, Shelter, Association of Residential Letting Agents, National Approved Letting Scheme, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, National Landlords Association, Residential Landlords Association, Greater London Authority (in listening mode), The Property Ombudsman, Ombudsman Services: Property, Property Redress Scheme and Department for Communities and Local Government (in listening mode).
3. The group reviewed and discussed information collated and supplied since the last meeting which included: • A comprehensive overview of the work of an agent before and during all stages of a tenancy; • Available evidence on the fee ban in Scotland and how it had been implemented; • The impact and implications of a ban on all parties in the rental process: tenants, landlords and agents; • The impact of the ban on the work of redress schemes and the need for clarity for consumers as well as robust enforcement
4. DCLG reminded the group that it was the political will of Government to ban fees. Therefore, the excellent work of the group should be focussed on continuing to provide evidence and data to help inform Government on the fee ban and how best to make it work.
5. The Group discussed the implications of the fee ban in terms of loss of service to tenants, increased cost for tenants in accessing a tenancy, potential decrease in choice of agent for consumers, and, an increase… in self-management by landlords all of which were set against a backdrop of a lack of regulation in the sector.
6. An overarching message that came from all members was the upmost need for clarity, transparency and effective enforcement of the ban.
7. The Group considered the proposal from NALS for a Competition and Markets Authority CMA) review into fees and charges in the lettings market and how best it should operate. The Group agreed to the proposal and to contacting the CMA as soon as possible with their request ahead of the Government consultation being launched.
8. The Group agreed to meet again when the consultation has been issued, in order to examine the detail and to consider areas where a joint response from the Group could be made. Members of the Group will also provide individual responses to the consultation and share them, if they choose. About the Fair Fees Forum NALS originally created the Fair Fees Forum to bring industry, trading standards and consumer groups together to discuss the creation of a fair fees charter for the private rented sector, and look at alternatives to an outright ban.
In light of the announcement of a ban on fees, the Forum’s Working Group is working together to inform the scope of the Government’s consultation. Comment from Tessa Shepperson, solicitor: Expressing surprise at the move when the Chancellors in his Autumn Statement announced that he was going to bring in legislation to ban letting agent fees to tenants, particularly, she says, as the Housing Minister had been rather dismissive of suggestions of this very thing a while ago. “Still it looks as if this is going to happen and we can expect a consultation shortly.”
My personal view, says Tessa, who operates the website LandlordLaw.co.uk, is that many fees that letting agents charge tenants are wrong and should not be allowed. For example administration fees and fees for drawing up a tenancy agreement. The reason why she considers these to be inappropriate is that “the agents’ client is the landlord. NOT the tenant. So it is the landlord who should pay the fees. In fact it is arguable that these things should already be covered by the agents’ commission. Otherwise what is it for?”
In fact agents could be breaching agency law by charging fees to tenants if they are not disclosed to their landlords, as they could be considered to be a ‘secret profit’. In this case the landlords are perfectly entitled to claim that the money be paid over to them.
This is in fact the basis of a claim being brought against Foxtons by Leigh Day. It is pretty clear that these fees will be covered by the proposed ban, says Tessa, so agents might want to start re-structuring their fees now to minimise their problems later. Fees which Tessa Shepperson thinks should be allowed
1. Reference charges.
If these are limited to the actual cost of getting a reference done I think it is fair. As many have pointed out, otherwise tenants can go around making unrealistic applications causing huge expense to agents.
2. One half of the inventory fee.
A clause like this is considered ‘fair’ under the Unfair Terms regulations and it is for the tenants benefit as much as the landlord to have an independent inventory done. Assuming it is independent of course.
3. Costs incurred if one or more of the tenants want to leave early.
Tenants wanting to leave is not uncommon, but as they have signed a legally binding tenancy agreement committing them to a fixed term, it is quite in order for the landlord to say ‘no’. I therefore think that if the landlord is willing to co-operate and say ‘yes’ he should be entitled to be re-imbursed his agent’s reasonable costs incurred by this. After all, they are not going to do the work for free.
Where we go from here?
At some stage soon a consultation paper will be issued, and if it is, agents and landlords should do a response, making it clear that you think which three charges should be omitted from the ban, and saying why. Many other anomalies will have to be taken into account, for example what about fees for reminder letters, interest charged on debts, court fees for evictions etc? There is a good chance that many of these will be exceptions under the new legislation, but the point needs to be made when the time for the consultation comes.

Top 5 tips for having happier tenants in 2017

The start of any new year sees millions of people across the UK embark on new year’s resolutions designed to improve themselves and their lives over the coming 12 months and beyond. Letting agents should be no different, and should be able to see the new year as a chance to embrace new opportunities to make sure tenants are happy and satisfied with where they live.

So what are some of the top new year’s resolutions that you as a letting agent can still commit to this January and carry throughout the whole year ‘ Here, we take a quick look at just a few top tips.

Be in contact more

Tenants are not always the most forthcoming of groups, so from time to time it can be a good idea for letting agents to tear down the barriers and check in with them rather than vice versa. Don’t just assume that because a tenant has not been in touch that they are happy and content. Some will leave things to simmer away for a while rather than report them, but it can be as easy as a simple phone call to check in and make sure to just let them know you care about their issues and to get problems solved quickly.

Communicate effectively

When someone does get in touch with you about a problem, strong communication is absolutely vital. Tenants often complain that when they make a report of an issue, they never hear back for days, or even weeks, and it can be frustrating. Make a commitment to changing this, and ensure that whenever a tenant gets in touch, you reply to them as soon as you can, even if it’s just to give them an update on progress and reassure them you are looking into things.

Future proof lettings

If you want a tenant to be a long-term fixture in your property, it can be a good idea to not just leave any changes you want to make until they move out. Ask the tenant for a chance to inspect the property, and assess whether furnishings and decor could do with a little modernising and sprucing up for the year ahead. The fact you pay attention and want to improve their surroundings can help put a smile on your tenant’s face early in the new year.

Be quick on the draw

Of course, most of the changes and work that will be carried out on any rental home will actually come after the tenant has requested it or reported a problem. Resolve this year that whenever such issues do arise, you make sure work is carried out as soon as possible. Tenants hate to have to wait, so having one or two contractors you know you can rely on to hand can make a big difference in getting stuff done quickly and keeping tenants happy.

Get tenants settled in

Increasingly, one of the biggest concerns of tenants is what they are going to be doing in the future, because they never know how long they are going to be living in one place. Where possible, it can be a good idea to tackle these worries, and offer tenants the chance to sign longer tenancy agreements. Not only does this give them the long-term security they are after, but it can also secure income for an extended period for the agent as well.

How to make sure your prospective tenant is the right tenant

For any letting agent looking to bring a tenant on board, there’s no doubt a temptation to get everything signed, sealed and delivered in terms of getting them moved in and settled. It’s the quickest way, after all, to start bringing in rent and making a solid return.

However, if the process of onboarding is not done right when a new tenant is coming in, it can cause a number of problems down the line in terms of unpaid rent, broken rules and other issues that can take months to reverse. For this reason, it always makes sense to ensure that the correct checks are carried out before you allow someone to rent your property.

Here, we take a look at just a few of the most important checks letting agents should be doing before a tenant signs on the dotted line and which you can rely on Chamberlains to undertake for you.

Credit checks

The most straightforward and obvious of the checks, a credit check is a security test to make sure your tenant is not likely to default on their payments on a monthly basis. Getting someone to move out of a flat when they have substantial arrears can be a real pain, and a drawn out affair, so it pays to make sure they have their finances in order before you allow them to sign the lease and move in.

Employment check

While someone may have a good credit history, it doesn’t always mean that they have the means to keep up with rental payments. It makes good sense to always check that someone has an income that will mean they don’t simply neglect to pay. Asking for a confirmation letter from an employer, or some recent payslips can go a long way to proving that they have the income to be able to afford their rent.

References

Another thing that is always worth checking when you have a new tenant coming to live in your properties is whether they have a good history as a tenant. If they have rented before, then they will probably have dealt with a letting agent to do so, and that agent can vouch for them on a number of points. If they paid their rent on time, always kept the place looking ok and left without any real problems, then the agent should be able to give you a shining reference that lets you know you are getting a good tenant moving into your property.

Interview

It may seem a little corporate, but after you’ve checked everything else and it all looks good to go, why not just have a little informal chat with the tenant themselves to ask any questions you’ve got. Look for things like what they are hoping to get out of that property in particular, why they are choosing to live in the area, their rental past and any other relevant factors. It can help you paint a good picture of whether they will be a good fit for your property and a good tenant moving forward.

January rental price increases slow

Rental prices in the UK have continued to rise in the first month of the new year, but data suggests that the severe slowing of rises compared to months before could mean prices falling for tenants in the months ahead.

According to data from the HomeLet Rental Index, the average price of renting a property rose by just 0.7 per cent in January when compared to the same month a year before. This is a marked drop from the year-on-year increase of 1.7 per cent that was experienced in December last year.

The average rent for a new tenancy in January of this year nationwide was £888 per calendar month, up slightly from the £882 per calendar month that was recorded at the same time last year.

It means that the rate of rental price rise is falling, and it has done for the past seven months, with the inflation of rental costs having fallen markedly since the yearly peak seen in June 2016, when they rose by as much as 4.7 per cent.

HomeLet said that if rental prices continue to trend in this direction, then at some time in the next few months, agents and landlords may indeed see prices paid by tenants falling rather than rising as they have been.

Indeed, this is something that has been experienced in certain areas already, with as many as six out of the 12 UK regions actually witnessing a fall in prices between January 2016 and the same month this year.

Martin Totty, HomeLet’s chief executive officer, said: “Landlords and letting agents have clearly recognised concerns about the affordability of rising rents and are now being cautious about what they expect tenants to pay. However, with many landlords facing increasing costs in the months ahead, as the government begins to cut back on mortgage interest tax relief, the sector faces a difficult balancing act.”

Warning after rise in cases involving identity theft in property sales

Agents are being warned to be on their guard as property fraud involving identity thefts of sellers grows, with a case due to go to the Court of Appeal this year.

In a new case, a judge has ordered well-known law firm Mishcon de Reya to pay over £1m after a client buying a property fell victim to an identity fraud scam.

This was despite the ruling that as conveyancer, it was not negligent.

It is the latest in a growing number of legal cases concerning fraudulent house sales – with agents, as well as conveyancing firms, likely to be taken to court.

A separate case, which last year cleared an agent, is now to be revisited at the Court of Appeal this year.

In the latest case, law firm Mishcon de Reya was found to be liable for breach of trust after the purchaser was duped into buying a London property from a tenant posing as the owner.

The claim was based on an alleged failure by Mishcon de Reya to seek an undertaking from the purported seller’s solicitors that it had taken reasonable steps to establish its client’s identity.

A claim for negligence against Mishcon, as well as the other solicitors, failed, the Law Gazette has reported.

The publication says it understands leave to appeal is being sought, with identity scams becoming increasingly common.

In the latest case, deputy High Court judge David Railton accepted the firms involved had acted honestly and innocently in carrying out their respective roles, but said that the “only practical remedy” open to the client was to target Mishcon de Reya.

We have not yet seen a transcript of the case, or been able to identify the agent in the case, where the litigation appears to have involved only the solicitors.

However, last year in an unrelated case, the agents – a Winkworth franchisee – as well as conveyancers were sued in P&P Property Ltd v (1) Owen White & Catlin (2) Crownvent Ltd t/a Winkworth,

The property in question was unoccupied and sold to the innocent purchaser for £1.03m, with the sale completing in December 2013. The £927,000 balance of funds was transferred to the imposter’s bank account in Dubai.

The fraud was only discovered when the real owner – ironically, himself an estate agent – walked past his house the following month, only to see builders ripping out the kitchen.

By that time, the fraudster and the money had long gone.

A claim against Crownvent trading as Winkworth, and law firm Owen White & Catlin, was brought by the purchaser, P&P Property – a small family firm specialising in buying and renovating properties to sell on.

In this case, the buyer failed in claims of negligence. The judge said that Winkworth’s ID checks had been “wholly inadequate” but that it was up to solicitors, not estate agents, to establish identity. However, although solicitors’ identity checks are necessary to reduce the risk of fraud, these checks do not provide a guarantee of their client’s identity, nor are they a guarantee that their client is the ‘true’ owner of a property.

The case is, however, now going to appeal.

Niall Innes, a partner at national firm Mills & Reeve representing the Winkworth firm in the case, told the Law Gazette that there is a need for clarity: “I have five cases on my desk around this area. It is a really big area and growing.

‘The courts are stuck in a position where the seller’s estate agent and solicitor, and the buyer’s solicitor, have done all they can.

“There has to be a solution to recognise the purchasers have done nothing wrong, with a window to recover. There needs to be an insurance solution but I suspect that few insurers will be interested as they are not confident they can persuade the general public to protect against identity fraud loss.”

In an earlier case last year, both sets of conveyancers were found to be liable after a seller committed a £470,000 fraud.

Judge Pelling ruled that A’Court & Co made no serious attempt to comply with Anti Money Laundering Regulations and also failed to obtain documentation linking the seller to the property.

The judge also ruled that the buyer’s conveyancer, House Owners Conveyancers, was responsible for not drawing attention to any concerns after asking whether the purported owner was entitled to sell the property.

The unknown fraudster had claimed to be Nicholas Dawson, the registered owner of a property in Wimbledon, and convinced Hurry Purrunsing to transfer the whole purchase price to Dawson’s registered conveyancer. The money then passed through A’Court to an account at a bank in Dubai on the purported instructions of Dawson.

Additional homes Stamp Duty surcharge yields Treasury an extra £1.1bn

The Treasury raised £1.1bn from the additional Stamp Duty charge in 2016, official data reveal.

Stamp Duty receipt figures from HMRC show there were 149,400 residential transactions of additional properties accounting for £2.3bn of the property tax, of which £1.1bn is attributed to the additional 3% element.

The additional tax take has prompted the Residential Landlords Association to call for a rethink after the Treasury had originally estimated it would get £630million from the surcharge.

David Smith, policy director of the RLA, said at the very least, the Government should pause the start of the introduction, from April, of the mortgage interest changes to enable a better assessment to be undertaken of the likely impact of the policy.

He said: “In raising nearly twice as much in just nine months as the tax was predicted to make in one year this Stamp Duty windfall gives the Government a chance to back the rental market and support the development of new homes which we desperately need.

“At no stage has evidence been published to support the assertion that landlords are taxed more favourably than homeowners, or that they are squeezing first time buyers out of the market. Assessments by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the London Schools of Economics contradict the Treasury’s position completely. It is also nonsense for HMRC to suggest that one in five landlords will be affected by the mortgage interest changes, when what matters is the number of properties affected.

“The Government has received far more money than it expected. We urge them to use this to support the country’s tenants and undertake a fuller impact assessment of a policy that has the potential to cause untold damage to the rental market.”

Overall, 882,800 residential properties were liable for Stamp Duty in 2016, up from 823,300 in 2015, raising a total of £8.2bn in Stamp Duty, up from £6.9bn in 2015.

Of the 882,800 figure, 149,400 were classed as additional properties.

The number of additional property transactions liable for Stamp Duty continued to increase in each of the three final quarters of 2016, from 30,400 in the second quarter to 56,200 in the third and 62,800 in the fourth. The surcharge was implemented last April 1.

Nick Leeming, chairman of Jackson-Stops & Staff, said: “The data suggests that buy-to-let investors are not being deterred by the new tax which is supposed to be dampening demand from this group to the benefit of first-time buyers.

“We will see the true impact of this policy in time, but my fear is that additional costs will be passed on to tenants.

“The better solution is a real concerted drive to build more homes, rather than targeting buy-to-let investors.

“I hope the upcoming Housing White Paper contains a real blueprint for change in this regard.”