The proportion of homes let by a company landlord reached 20 per cent in the firsdt quarter of 2017, the highest proportion since records began in 2010.
The numbers have been steadily rising since 2013 but this particular quarter recorded the biggest annual jump of four per cent.
Changes to tax relief on rental properties, announced in the 2015 spring budget may be behind the rise. The changes to income tax relief on mortgage interest payments are being phased in over a four year period (until 2020) and took effect from this month.
They make it more tax efficient in some cases for landlords to own their buy to let portfolios through a company rather than hold as a personal asset.
Landlords letting homes in London are most likely to own their property using a company name - 27 per cent of properties let in London are owned by a company, a larger proportion than anywhere else.
Company landlord lets drive the top and bottom of the rental market with the most and least expensive homes likely to be owned by a company landlord.
Over the last year, a quarter of homes let by a company landlord cost less than £500 per calendar month.
Nearly one in ten homes (9 per cent) let for between £1,500 and £2,000 pcm were owned by a company landlord, compared to 6 per cent owned by non-company landlords.
Rents fell in March 2017, the cost of a new let was 0.3 per cent lower than in the same month last year, the second consecutive monthly fall. The average rent of a new let in Great Britain fell to £928, £3 less than the same period last year. The fall in rental growth was driven by London, the South West and Wales where rents fell by 0.4 per cent, 0.2 per cent and 6 per cent respectively.
Johnny Morris, research director at Countrywide, said: “The number of rented homes owned through a company is on the up. The incoming tapering of mortgage tax relief is likely driving the increase. Companies are generally taxed more favourably, particularly with recent changes by government to tax relief, so in many cases landlords can make cash savings by operating through a company rather than as an individual.
“Rents fell again in March, mostly driven by falls in London. In much of the rest of the UK rents continued to grow, although at a slower rate.”