There are special rules where a property is let at less than a commercial rate or isn’t let on commercial terms. These rules also apply if a property is occupied rent free or at less than a commercial rate, for example, a property is occupied by a family member at a reduced or nil rent.
In these circumstances, HMRC can take the view that 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. Problems may also arise when considering the deduction of expenses during periods when the property is lived in by ‘house sitters’ who do not make any payment whilst staying at the property.
HMRC generally accepts that if a property is let at below the market rate (as opposed to providing it rent-free), the landlord 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.
If the landlord is actively seeking a tenant and a relative house sits while it is empty, relief will not be restricted as long as the property remains genuinely available for letting. Relief for capital expenditure on uncommercial lettings may also be restricted.