With the arrival of the third national lockdown, and following weeks of campaigning from the property industry, it is looking increasingly likely that there could be an extension to the SDLT holiday, avoiding a cliff edge end to the tax reduction at the end of March.

At the ASTL, we have collaborated with our colleagues at FIBA, to call for an extension to the deadline, and we haven’t been alone. Both IMLA and AMI have also spoken publicly about the need for an extension, as have many specialist lenders, and so it will come as welcome news if measures are taken to avoid a hard end to the window.

It’s important to recognise that, as industry trade bodies, we haven’t taken this approach for reasons that are self-serving, but to represent the interests of our customers. After all, without any form of extension there is a realistic possibility that customers who have commenced live transactions in the belief that they will benefit from a reduced SDLT bill may not complete by the deadline of 31st March 2021. This may well be through no fault of their own and yet they could find they are subject to a significant tax charge that they had not anticipated. Other customers may simply abort transactions, leaving broken chains, increased costs for many, and plans put on hold.

At the ASTL, we have also been actively engaging throughout 2020 with HM Treasury and the FCA regarding the impact of the enforcement moratorium on the short-term lending sector and we have most recently written again to the Treasury regarding any potential extension to the moratorium.

We, of course, acknowledge that the health of the nation is paramount, and none of our members would knowingly seek to repossess property where health concerns continue, but we also recognise that a broad-brush approach to mortgage lending enforcement when it comes to measures such as this is ultimately detrimental to customer choice and access to finance.

The lifting of the moratorium in September did not actually lead to any physical repossessions, but it did enable the machinery of the process to operate and the courts to make decisions on the correct course of action, based on the specific circumstances of an individual case. And this has gone some way to allay the long-term liquidity concerns for some lenders, which will be ultimately beneficial for customers.

This year many SMEs, property developers and private individuals will require access to flexible finance, particularly when CBILS and BBLS come to an end – and short term lenders are in a great position to provide this. Any measure that has a detrimental impact on liquidity will also, therefore, ultimately be damaging for customers.

As a trade body we endeavour to provide a voice for our members and the industry that we represent. However, what we are ultimately doing, is providing a voice for our customers.

Vic Jannels, CEO of the ASTL

A version of this article appeared in the January online edition of Specialist Lending Solutions