The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) has warned against further intervention in the buy-to-let market as the forthcoming tax crackdown looks set to slow growth in the sector.
It said that landlords have yet to absorb the effects of a series of tax changes that are likely to have significant implications for the private rented sector.
The CML’s response to the Treasury’s consultation on buy-to-let powers accepted that there must be robust macro-prudential regulation of the mortgage market, including buy-to-let.
But it said that buy-to-let makes up just 18% of total lending while only a third of privately rented properties are currently financed by a buy-to-let loan.
The remainder are owned outright, or are funded by a commercial mortgage, a business loan or through institutional investment.
Bernard Clarke at the CML said that buy-to-let borrowers are a diverse group and regulators must be careful about adopting a "one-size-fits-all" regulatory approach, which could affect some parts of the market more than others.
He warned that proposed powers would allow the Financial Policy Committee to impose limits on buy-to-let LTV ratios, and the interest cover ratio, which assesses rental income relative to the cost of the mortgage.
Clarke said: “In recognising the over-riding need for the FPC to have at its disposal all necessary macro-prudential tools, our submission argues that any decision to apply them is a much bigger step.
“We believe that they should only ever be used with great sensitivity, and preferably only after consultation and the publication of analysis and assessment of the likely effects.”
He said the sharp contraction in buy-to-let activity as a result of the financial crisis was primarily driven by the collapse of the global securitisation markets upon which many buy-to-let lenders then relied.
“This pattern is unlikely to be repeated now that lenders have more varied, stable and reliable funding options.”
He said there had been a modest decline in the number of loans advanced at higher LTVs over the past two years, despite the buoyancy of the buy-to-let market.
“The forthcoming tax changes could reinforce this trend.”