Buy to let landlords may find raising a mortgage harder as lenders prepare to enforce tough new borrowing rules.

The countdown to the start of the European Mortgage Credit Directive has begun as some banks and building societies plan to impose the measure early – even though the official start date is not until March 21, 2016.

The directive splits the buy to let mortgage between professional and consumer landlords.

Professional landlords should find their businesses unaffected by the directive.

However, a new class of consumer landlords face many restrictions on their buy to let borrowing.

Consumer landlords are defined as having a single letting property, as renting out a former home or a home they have inherited.

Instead of basing mortgage borrowing on the rental income of these homes, lenders have to impose affordability tests that are similar to residential mortgage underwriting.

This means lenders will have to ensure a buy to let mortgage is repayable from disposable income after considering other borrowing.

“It is unclear how the directive will affect the market, or consumer choice,” said a spokesman for trade body The Council of Mortgage Lenders.

“It is possible that some lenders, particularly small and medium-sized firms, may be cautious about offering consumer buy-to-let mortgages.

“One consequence may be that consumers wanting to take out buy-to-let loans will have a narrower choice in the market, particularly in the short term.”

The government insists that restricting consumer landlord borrowing is not an attempt to regulate buy to let lending.

“Some buy to let borrowers are not acting as a business,” said a spokesman. “In cases where landlords are renting a home due to personal circumstances rather than running a business, the consumer lending rules will apply.

“Mortgage lenders will identify these borrowers during underwriting or allow them to declare they are running a business as long as they have no reason to doubt their claim.”

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