The simple answer is yes, absolutely you can use your holiday let investment for yourself, friends and family, whilst being mindful of some limits set out by the HMRC, and requirements from your lender.
The benefits of staying in your holiday let property
As well as giving you your perfect retreat, staying in the property yourself can help you to improve your business.
Customer of The Cumberland, Jamie Cowan, owns seven holiday cottages in Dumfries & Galloway, and has stayed in them all with his family over the years. By doing so, he says he’s able to find any faults and put them right, improving the experience for future visitors.
As well as spotting faults, personal experience of using the property might bring those finishing touches to your attention that take your reviews from four to five stars – you might find the property is a bit chilly in winter, and adding an extra blanket for the beds would help make your guests feel extra cosy.
Getting to know the local area and all it has to offer will help you to market your property better too – producing food and drink or activities guides to enhance visitor stays, or really adding heart and authenticity to your property descriptions on booking websites.
Some holiday let owners also find it helpful to stay in their properties while they catch up on maintenance or decorating jobs – perhaps prepping for the next peak holiday season.
What are the limitations?
With all that in mind, you do need to be aware of some limitations to personal use. Holiday let mortgages require your property to be a ‘Furnished Holiday Let’, according to HMRC.
Properties that qualify as a ‘Furnished Holiday Let’ (FHL) can enjoy tax benefits, over and above other residential and commercial property lets. If you wish to enjoy these benefits, your holiday let will need to meet several conditions.
HMRC states that your property must be available for letting as furnished holiday accommodation letting for at least 210 days in the year. Any days that you spend in the property do not count as available.
You must let the property commercially as furnished holiday accommodation to the public for at least 105 days in the year. Within this 105 days, you’re not allowed to count any days when you let the property to friends or relatives either for free, or at a reduced rate, as it doesn’t count as a commercial let, and therefore won’t satisfy the HMRC conditions.
Pattern of occupation
If you wanted to use the property as a second home for significant periods of time throughout the year, there are limitations that apply here too. If the total of all lettings that exceed 31 continuous days is more than 155 days during the year, your property would not meet the HMRC conditions for a FHL.
This list covers the main points that you should be aware of, when considering personal use of your holiday let investment. But it’s not an exhaustive list of all of the qualification criteria for a FHL – the government website provides a detailed set of guidelines.
In addition, be aware that there have been reports in the news recently that HMRC plan to tighten rules to mean that holiday landlords will need to prove they have made a realistic effort to rent properties out. While this is intended to target second home owners who falsely register as holiday lets, it will still have implications for genuine holiday let owners, in terms of keeping good-quality records to provide evidence of their efforts to rent their properties.
Check out the links at the end of the article for more information.
Requirements for your holiday let mortgage
David Wallace, a specialist in hospitality lending at The Cumberland, advises how personal use of a holiday let fits in with your mortgage application:
“We lend on properties as a holiday let investment. Part of our assessment of affordability involves receiving a projection of income from a holiday letting agent, which is based on the property being available to let all year, and with high occupancy in the peak months (or by reviewing historical income for properties that are already active holiday lets).
“Therefore, if owners take their personal time in the property during peak months, the projected income won’t be achieved. So we’d advise that if you are intending to stay in the property yourself, that you use it off-season to maximise income from the peak months.”
You can read further guidance on the tax essentials for holiday lets from the experts at Moore and Smalley here, while you can discover more about Jamie Cowan's experiences of running a holiday let business by clicking here.