Buy-to-let is holding its own in a difficult market, but there is evidence that some smaller landlords are selling up while larger landlords increase their portfolios – yet accidental landlords still make up a huge chunk of the market.

Since the government brought in the 3% additional stamp duty surcharge for anyone buying a second home in April 2016, the number of “accidental landlords” – those who have one property that they rent out either because they are unable or do not want to sell – has risen by a huge 230,000.

By contrast, according to figures from Hamptons International, the number buy-to-let landlords – those who intentionally bought one or more investment properties to rent out – has shrunk over the same period by around 88,000.

As well as the stamp duty changes, this could partly be down to the Section 24 regulations that are being phased in, which mean that landlords will no longer be able to offset their mortgage bill against their rental income when calculating their tax payment.

While the aim of these changes to stamp duty and tax relief was to create a more level playing field for first-time buyers by deterring second homeowners, many critics believe that it is actually a detriment to the housing market as a whole, as the number of people renting continues to rise.

Government needs to stop discouraging landlords

Independent property market analyst Johnny Morris said: “If the stated goal was to discourage landlords from buying rental homes then that has worked. Has it helped first-time buyers? I think the increase in first-time buyers is more to do with Help to Buy. Landlords selling homes is not to the benefit of many who rent who cannot afford to buy. The difficulty of helping first-time buyers is that they are the wealthiest of renters; those in social housing and many families who are renting cannot afford to buy.”

Meanwhile, the build-to-rent sector is still on the rise but so far only around 21,000 have been completed in the UK, with another 35,000 in the pipeline this year, meaning the market has huge room for development. Last year, £2bn was invested in the space, and Knight Frank predicts investment will grow by as much as 180% over the next six years.

Ian Fletcher, at the British Property Federation, commented: “We need 1.8 million more homes in the private rented sector by 2025 so I would prefer not to see the smaller landlords leave the sector.”