Non-institutional or private landlords provide 94% of the residential rental accommodation here in Ireland.

But a growing number are deciding to sell up, despite record high rents.

We've been finding out why, and what impact this will have on the housing market.

How many small landlords have left the market?

43,000 homes have left the rental market over the past five years, according to figures from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).

Once sold, these properties rarely return to the rental market.

This is bad news for renters, who are already faced with low stock and high prices.

A recent report from property website revealed that there were just 1,096 homes available to rent at the start of February, down over 20% on the same time last year.

Rental supply is set to fall even further if this trend continues.

Why are private landlords selling their properties?

40% of the property sales in the final three months of last year involved landlords selling their investment properties, according to figures from the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI).

Barry McDonald, Spokesperson for estate agents REA said he expects landlords will keep selling this year - unless changes are made to regulations in favour of landlords, which he believes is unlikely to happen.

"I think we will continue to see landlords leaving the market in favour of more straight-forward and less onerous investments," he said.

"This will lead to rents being driven up even higher than the current level they are at," he added.

But why are landlords selling, when both demand and rents are so high?

Increased regulation, high taxes and tricky tenants are top of the list.

High property prices have also made the idea of selling more appealing for some.

Mr McDonald pointed out that many home owners are 'accidental landlords'.

"The property crash brought about a situation whereby the value of the house was so low vis-à-vis the mortgage on the property, owners had to hold on to the property and rent it out.

"Now that we have seen house values increase over the past five years, the value of the house has gotten to a level that the owner can dispose of the property and pay off their mortgage," he explained.

How are regulations negatively impacting private landlords?

The Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA), a representative body for private landlords described the current environment as "incredibly challenging" for non-institutional landlords.

Mary Conway, Chairperson of the IPOA said she believes the implementation of policies such as Rent Pressure Zones have created a two-tier rental market.

Rent Pressure Zones (RPZ) were introduced by the Government back in 2016, to help make it easier for people to find affordable accommodation as rents increased.

They are designated areas where landlords can't increase rent by more than the current level of inflation or by 2% - whichever is less.

As the level of inflation in Ireland currently stands at 8%, landlords with properties in these areas can't increase their rent by more than 2% each year.

"Rent Pressure Zones have led to a situation whereby many landlords are restricted to substantially below market rent, and therefore find themselves in an unsustainable situation with costs increasing and income restricted," Ms Conway said.

"In the last 12 to 18 months more than half of small landlords surveyed said they have made plans to sell their properties that are located in Rent Pressure Zones," she added.

Barry McDonald of estate agents REA said they are seeing situations where a reasonable landlord left rent low for a sitting tenant, and is now being restricted to very minimal rent increases in rent pressure zones.

"Upon an existing tenant leaving, the landlord is unable to charge market rent to a new tenant.

"They could be stuck at a rental level of approximately €1,200, meanwhile, the landlord next door with an identical house or apartment is getting €2,500 per month," he said.

One private landlord who rents a property in a RPZ in South County Dublin said he is becoming increasingly frustrated.

"The rent is capped because it suits the tenant, but our mortgage rate is still going up," he said.

The landlord, who wishes to remain anonymous, moved abroad for work and rents out the family home.

"It is more hassle than it is worth," he said.

While he would prefer not to sell the property, he said he will consider it - if the Government doesn’t take action.

He bought the house 14 years ago and has been renting it for four years.

"If we sold it now we would have to pay Capital Gains Tax on the profits made while renting," he explained.

"We have already been paying tax on that rental income, on top of paying down the mortgage," he added.

Capital Gains Tax is the tax paid on the profits or gains made when selling a property.

It is charged on the difference between what you purchased the property for and what you sold it for. You pay it at a rate of 33% on the gain you make.

"The country is kept afloat by us and the tax takings," the landlord said.

"Perhaps the Government could introduce a tax break or incentives for long-term small landlords," he added.

How much tax do private landlords pay?

Private landlords here in Ireland pay the same rates of tax on their rental profit as they would pay on any other income they have.

Their rental profit, which is their rental income less deductible expenses, is added to their other Irish sourced income such as employment income - and then income tax, USC and PRSI is applied.

Marian Ryan, Director of Business Development at gave the following example.

"They would pay income tax at a rate of 20% on the first €40,000 of income they have and 40% on the balance of their income. They would also have to pay USC and PRSI on the income," she explained.

She said most rental income would be subject to the 40% income tax, 4% PRSI and 8% USC.

This would mean many private landlords are paying tax of 52%.

On the other hand, institutional landlords are treated differently to private landlords when it comes to taxes from rental income.

A company does not pay income tax on rental incomes, it pays corporation tax on profits.

"With corporation tax at 25% on rental income on lands and buildings in the State, the tax payable is considerably less than the 40% paid in income tax by a higher-rate tax paying landlord," Ms Ryan said.

What changes do landlords want to see introduced?

Just last week Focus Ireland and Chartered Accountants Ireland launched a briefing paper which calls on the Government to introduce targeted measures to keep small-scale landlords in the private rented market to help ease the housing crisis.

Pat Dennigan, CEO of Focus Ireland said urgent policy responses are needed.

"They should be targeted at landlords who are considering evicting their tenants to sell over the next number years, convincing them it is in their interest to stay, or not to evict when they are selling," he said.

Dr Brian Keegan, Director of Public Policy with Chartered Accountants Ireland said as things stand, renting as an investment is becoming less attractive for smaller landlords.

"Increased regulation in recent years has been driven by efforts to provide greater security for tenants in the face of a shortage of rental accommodation, but in many cases, these have increased the likelihood of small landlords leaving the market, exacerbating problems they were intended to remedy," he said.

Among the measures included in their proposal, Focus Ireland and Chartered Accountants Ireland want to see parity in the taxation of corporate and individual landlords.

They're calling for a flat rate of 25% on Case V income for small landlords who opted to become 'professional landlords’ by waiving their rights under section 34 of the Residential Tenancy Act (2014), giving additional security to their tenants.

They are also calling for an increase in wear and tear rates from 12.5% to 25% per annum to facilitate investment in the maintenance of properties and encourage better standards where renovations do not result in the termination of an existing tenancy under section 34 and the property remains in the private rental market for the following five years.

The Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA) has also called for a number of measures to be introduced.

These include the introduction of roll-over relief in relation to Capital Gains Tax on the sale of assets where proceeds are reinvested in residential property within 12 months.

It also wants to see regulatory changes to remove Rent Pressure Zones and the current eviction ban.

"The implementation of a blanket eviction ban is an inadequate policy response to the ongoing rental crisis," said Ms Conway of the IPOA.

"Of course, we do acknowledge the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on society as a whole.

"With that said, we must recognise that in the current environment where regulatory and taxation burdens on landlords are ever increasing, this current eviction ban only places additional restrictions on the constitutional rights of landlords and acts as a further deterrent to investment in the rental sector," she added.

Last week, the Taoiseach said the Government would make a decision before the St Patrick's Day break on whether or not to extend the ban on no-fault evictions.

Leo Varadkar said the Government had hoped that the ban - which has been in place since November - would see the number of people in emergency accommodation fall.

However, that has not been the case with the latest figures showing that the number of people homeless has risen for a seventh consecutive month.

Will the Government take action to help keep small landlords in the market?

Last week, the Taoiseach said he believes there has been a "demonisation" of landlords, and small landlords in particular in Ireland.

"Lots of people need to rent for lots of different reasons - and for that reason we need landlords," he said.

Mr Varadkar said he thinks it is a "good idea" that the Government improves the tax treatment of landlords, particularly small landlords, to encourage them to stay in, and come into the market.

However, he said he would be reluctant to introduce any major tax measure outside of the budget.

"Anything meaningful would cost a significant amount of money and I think doing that outside of a budget context would be unwise.

"But the budget is not all that far away, and perhaps we can give that consideration," he added.

A recent report by the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) proposed linking improved tax measures for landlords to better rights for renters.

"That makes sense to me," Mr Varadkar said.