The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement was a rather muted affair in terms of residential property. There had been much speculation and media coverage in the run-up to the statement about possible Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) cuts, with the Times reporting just yesterday that Jeremy Hunt was keen to look again at SDLT and that senior Tories were calling for it to be scrapped altogether. Such a dramatic change was always unlikely given that any policy change in this area would have to be fully funded but residential SDLT is now a highly complex tax that is ripe for reform. The government has acknowledged that clarification is needed in some areas – for example, the government issued a consultation document back in November 2021 on possible reforms to Multiple Dwellings Relief and missed use properties but we are still waiting for the response to be published. SDLT has been the subject of numerous technical changes over the last ten years and the resulting complexity has resulted in ‘grey areas’ that can result in delays to transactions. It certainly seems likely that there will be further developments in this area and we can expect to see SDLT pledges in the various party manifestos towards the end of next year.

On the supply side, the statement included various measures aimed at boosting the housing supply. Such measures include allocated funding to tackle planning backlogs and a consultation to consider the introduction of a new permitted development right to enable one house to be converted into two dwellings without the need for planning permission. Funding was also announced for new homes in London, Leeds and Cambridge and an extension to the affordable homes guarantee scheme.

The policy paper issued today also indicated that the government would provide £3 million for a range of measures to improve the buying and selling process, including pilots to develop property tech products and to digitise local council property data. We have already found that using online tools for identity checks, document automation products and electronic signatures has resulted in greater efficiency and helped to reduce transaction times. This is an exciting era for property law, and digital transformation, with appropriate safeguards against fraud, should make the buying and selling process for all parties. Watch this space!

“As well as building the homes of the future, this government is committed to supporting home movers with a range of measures to improve the buying and selling process, including pilots to develop property tech products and digitise local council property data”