The first survey of private landlords in England for eight years provides an encouraging snapshot of the buy-to-let business.

Half of landlords do not use an agent to let or manage their properties, while a third (34 per cent) use them for let-only, the survey found.

Only 9 per cent use an agent for both letting and management and the remaining 5 per cent use one for management services only.

Since the last survey was carried out in 2010, the number of households in the private rented sector has risen by 25 per cent from 3.6m to 4.5m.

The survey questioned almost 8,000 landlords and agents registered with one of the three tenancy deposit protection schemes.

It found a total of some 3.4m live deposits registered, equating to 1.5m landlords. Of that number only about 360,000 had registered the deposits themselves.

The survey also found 94 per cent of landlords operate as individuals and almost half (45 per cent) own just one property. Only 17 per cent own five or more properties.

The average gross rental income that a landlord earns is £15,000, but they only receive 42 per cent of that after tax and other deductions.

According to the survey, 53 per cent of landlords plan to keep their portfolios the same size, 11 per cent plan to increase the number of properties, and 10 per cent plan to reduce, while 5 per cent plan to sell all their portfolio.

National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS) chief executive Isobel Thomson said: “The results of this survey make for interesting reading, particularly given some of the anti-landlord and agent rhetoric that we have seen recently.

"In fact, we see that only 7 per cent of tenancies end in eviction, that agents and landlords are willing to offer longer tenancies, and that most deposits are returned in full or part.

“NALS wants a better, safer private rented sector for all. These results show that in the main, agents and landlords are working hard to achieve that, and that the many tenants who rely on the sector do have a good experience.”