Treasury cool on renewed call to extend SDLT holiday

Rob Hailstone 2019

Hailstone: Clients threatening to withdraw

The time-limited nature of the stamp duty land tax (SDLT) holiday is why people are looking to use it, the government has said in response to conveyancers’ call to extend it.

The Conveyancing Association, Bold Legal Group and Society of Licensed Conveyancers were part of a group that wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak in November calling on him to extend the holiday by at least six months, or at the minimum introduce a tapering arrangement for its removal.

The trio said this week that the “extremely difficult market conditions now prevailing”, principally due to Covid, provided an even stronger argument for action.

Conveyancers have been warning since November that the spike in activity meant new transactions risked not completing before the holiday ends on 31 March.

Lloyd Davies, operations director of the Conveyancing Association, said: “The level of property market activity is good for the economy but, compounded by the effects of coronavirus, has created a potentially very expensive lottery for home buyers in respect of benefiting from the SDLT holiday.

“Our members phones are ringing off the hook with distraught clients worried about completing their transactions. The implications of home purchases costing thousands of pounds more than buyers have budgeted is potentially devastating.”

Rob Hailstone, founder of the Bold Legal Group, added: “Our members are seriously concerned about the impact that the ‘cliff edge’ effect of the 31 March removal of the SDLT benefit will have.

“Many of their clients are saying that they will withdraw from their purchases if they do not complete by 31 March, causing chains to collapse and seriously damaging the property market.”

The groups added that, with the prime minister hinting that the current Covid restrictions could be extended to the property market, the situation was “even more parlous and surely an extension to the SDLT holiday must follow”.

But a spokesman for HM Treasury offered little sign of movement. He said: “The temporary stamp duty cut is helping to protect hundreds of thousands of jobs which rely on the property market by stimulating economic activity.

“Its time limited nature is what has encouraged people to take advantage of the scheme.”

But the Treasury said it was keeping SDLT under review and was closely monitoring the market.

Meanwhile, the Conveyancing Association and Bold have also joined a host of residential property market bodies and firms, including Manchester law firm JMW, in calling for the government to speed up the use of the ‘unique property reference number’ (URPN).

Last year, the Geospatial Commission said the URPN and unique street reference number would become “the standard way of referencing and sharing information about properties and streets across government”.

Andrew Bulmer, chief executive of the Institute of Residential Property Management and author of the open letter to housing secretary Robert Jenrick, said: “The UPRN is like attaching a number plate to a car, instead we attach a unique number (up to 12-digits) to all things related to properties – fittings, fixtures, paperwork, surveys etc – so that each property can be uniquely identified with unparalleled accuracy.

“If all the conditions outlined in the letter were to be met, we could proactively work towards the wholesale adoption of the UPRN. Implemented effectively, this could help position the UK as the world’s leading property market.”

These included making it mandatory for all public sector data sets relating to properties and buildings to include the UPRN, and ensuring that all government tenders and policy relating to residential properties or data mandate its use.

Among the other signatories are the British Property Federation, Knight Frank, Landmark, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Savills, the Property Ombudsman, Propertymark, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme and the Lettings Industry Council.

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