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Part 3: UK bank accounts and property. The 6 expat scenarios

Simon Cahill19 April 2021

This article is part of a series. Please scroll to the bottom of the page to see all the articles in the series.

The amount of time you have spent offshore will likely impact your UK asset base.

In this section we will cover 6 scenarios.

  1. You kept your UK bank account
  2. You no longer have a UK bank account
  3. You want to rent a property when you return to the UK
  4. You want to buy a property when you return to the UK
  5. You have a property which you wish to return to
  6. You have a property which you have rented out but want to buy a new one to live in

1. You kept your UK bank account

Bank Account

This is good news as it means that you may find it easier to purchase a new property, if that is your intention, when you return home.

Not only that, it will also mean that you have a better credit score. It will be easier to get credit in general, which means numerous possible benefits such as:

  • Cheaper car insurance
  • Access to the best credit cards
  • Savings on interest rates for larger loans

Experian goes into more detail on this. If you’re going to check your credit score, ClearScore offers the best service in this regard.

However, depending on how long you’ve been offshore, numerous banks have launched which you may or may not be aware of. The days of traditional banks with piles of paperwork and archaic requirements are well and truly over. Banks such as Monzo, Revolut and Starling appear to be leading the way. They all have slightly differing benefits so it’s worth looking at what would be most beneficial for you.

What they have in common is that they’re all:

  • Online
  • Extremely efficient
  • Easy to use

Once you’ve opened an account with one of them, you will never likely look back!

2. You no longer have a UK account

If this applies to you, you should take steps to open an account as soon as possible. This will help to improve your credit rating which will be especially important if you intend on purchasing a UK property.

My recommendation would be to open an account at least a year or so before you repatriate. If you don’t have your own address, some candidates who I interviewed informed me that they were able to open accounts using their parents or siblings addresses.

As mentioned above, personally I would look at the more modern banks such as Monzo, Revolut or Starling as they are extremely easy to open and much more efficient to use.

3. You want to rent a property when you return to the UK


7 points to consider:

  1. Most letting agents will ask for references from previous landlords and run credit checks on you before giving you the go ahead.

  2. This could pose potential problems for you as you’re unlikely to have up to date references due to your time offshore and a credit check may also not account for your recent overseas earnings.

  3. If you already have a job secured, this will help you as you will be able to provide your employment contract which shows your agreed salary.

    You can also ask your future employer for a reference.

  4. If you don’t have a job secured, are retired or self-employed, this may make things more difficult. You may need to consider paying a certain amount of the rent up front in order for a letting agent to accept you.

  5. Some families I interviewed for this guide mentioned that they moved back into AirBnB accommodation.

    They booked the property for a set period via the website and then after a few days made an agreement privately with the landlord for a longer period.

    The feedback was that they often found these landlords to be more flexible than the average.

  6. If you can find private landlords, this may be an easier option for you generally.

  7. Be aware that most private rented tenancies are let on an assured short hold basis.

    This means that the landlord has the right to end the tenancy after its fixed term.

Be sure to give yourself enough time to organise everything and start planning as early as possible.

4. You want to buy a property when you return to the UK

Your ability to purchase a property when you return to the UK will largely be affected by either your credit rating or your financial position. If you are in the position to make a cash purchase, this may make things more straightforward.

However, you should question this decision due to how low UK interest rates currently are. Your money may be put to better use elsewhere.

Alternatively, you may require a mortgage to purchase the property. If you have not maintained any financial assets such as credit cards, bank accounts or a UK address of any kind, you are unlikely to have a credit rating. If this applies to you, you may struggle to get a mortgage.

One option is to get a mortgage whilst still living abroad. However, you will likely have to pay much higher interest rates as well as there being possible limitations on the loan to value of the property. This may make purchasing less desirable.

You should investigate your credit rating ahead of time. You can do this with companies such as Experian or ClearScore who can also tell you how to improve your credit rating.

Credit Rating Speaking to a mortgage adviser ahead of time will stand you in good stead and let you know what your options are. Some people wrongly assume that they may not be able to get a mortgage until they have worked in the UK for 3 or 6 months and have the payslips to prove it.

However, some lenders will lend simply using your employment contract as proof of your employment. Octopus Wealth can offer independent mortgage advice so if you would like to discuss your options book a call.

Source of funds

Another problem you may face is proving your source of funds. The UK has very strict rules on this to prevent money laundering which can make things slightly difficult at times for returning expats.

Source of funds

All of this can add considerable time to the overall purchasing process. Be aware of it and make sure you start the process early.

5. You have a property which you wish to return to

Rules for landlords and tenants are extremely different between the UK and the UAE.

If you wish to return to a UK property you own, it is likely that this property has been rented out whilst you were away. As such, you will need to give the current tenants notice of your intentions. The vast majority of tenancies are Assured Shorthold Tenancies. You can find the criteria on the government website here.

If you’ve been offshore, you will most likely have a ‘fixed-term tenancy’ in place which runs for a set amount of time. You will need to give your tenants a minimum of 2 months’ notice that you would like them to vacate the property at the end of the tenancy. Currently, as a result of Covid-19 this is now 6 months but will be subject to review.

If the fixed term has come to an end or there is a break clause that can be triggered, you can serve a Section 21 notice of possession. In this scenario, you don’t need to provide a specific reason for wanting to take back possession of the property. Of course, you need to be aware of when the tenancy finishes so that you can plan around it and give the appropriate amount of notice.

Don’t get caught out and leave it too late. You may end up having to arrange a short term let whilst you’re waiting for the notice period to end!

6. You have a property which you have rented out but want to buy a new one to live in

If this applies to you, much of the information in Section 4 will also be relevant to you. Whether or not you are replacing your main home will affect the amount of stamp duty you pay.

If you are replacing your main home without selling the previous one, you will have to pay the higher rate, but may be able to reclaim the additional 3% paid, if the original home is sold within 3 years. This can get complicated so it’s worth taking advice on.

In case you were unaware, changes to the stamp duty rules in the UK were introduced in 2016. Purchasing a second UK property or a buy to let means that you’ll now be paying an additional 3% above the standard rate.

The current rates are:

  • 0% between £0 and £125,000
  • 2% between £125,001 and £250,000
  • 5% between £250,001 and £925,0000
  • 10% between £925,001 £1,500,000
  • 12% on anything over £1,500,001

So if you’re buying a second home or buy to let, it’s 3% on top of each of these rates.

As an example, if you bought your only home for £900,000, you would pay:

  • 0% tax up to £125,000 = £0
  • 2% tax between £125,001 and £250,000 = £2,500
  • 5% tax between £250,001 and £900,000 = £32,500
  • Total = £35,000

If this was a second home or buy to let, you would be paying £62,500.

However, on 8th July 2020, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent contraction in the UK economy, a stamp duty holiday was announced on the first £500,000 of all property sales in England and Northern Ireland until 31st March 2021. This was then extended to 30th June 2021. After this date, the 0% stamp duty threshold will be reduced from £500,000 to £250,000 for three months until 30th September 2021.

From 1st October 2021, the 0% stamp duty threshold will return to £125,000, or £300,000 for first time buyers purchasing a property worth up to £500,000.

The maximum saving which can be made prior to 30th June 2021 is £15,000 on a property valued over £500,000.


Whatever your situation, the general advice around planning is the same. The earlier you do it, the easier your life and the move home will be.

If you do not already own a UK home, purchasing one may or may not be in your best interest. Changes to the tax regime mean that it is not quite as attractive as it once was. But on the other hand, there’s no place like home!

If you would like to discuss what may be right for you, feel free to get in touch.

In Part 4 of this series, we will delve into the wonderful world of UK tax.

Part 1: How to successfully leave the UAE

Part 2: What to do with your assets abroad?

Part 3: UK bank accounts and property: the 6 expat scenarios

Part 4: UK tax: 8 points which could save you money

Part 5: Retiring to the UK: 4 areas which you need to consider

Part 6: You’re back in the UK: 6 things you need to organise

Part 7: Financial advice in the UK. Do you need it?

Important information

Circumstances vary for individuals and any personal opinions or firm opinions represented above should not be seen as advice or a recommendation to take any specific course of action.

We are not tax advisers. The value of an investment, and any income from it, can fall or rise. Investors may not get back the full amount they invest. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

Personal opinions may change and should not be seen as advice or a recommendation. This post is based on current legislation as at the time of writing, which is subject to change and will not be kept up to date. This document is for UK retail investors.

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