Tenants in private rented homes are facing the highest rent increases in more than 18 months, official figures showed on Friday, as demand from tenants continued to drive up the amount landlords can charge.

Rents on private homes in Great Britain increased by 2.1% in the year to March, the figures from the Office of National Statistics showed. The annual pace of change was the highest since the summer of 2013.

The increase was driven by strong rises in London and the rest of the south-east. Rents in the capital have increased by 3.2% over the year, while in the south-east they have risen by 2.3% and and by 1.9% in the east of England.

Rents were also up by 2.1% in Scotland, while in Wales they moved up by just 0.8%.

The figures, which are based on actual rents paid rather than advertised rents, except in Scotland, only show how rents have moved, not how much they cost. The increase across Great Britain means that a property let for £500 a month in March 2014 would be rented for £510.50 in March 2015.

Figures published on Thursday showed that 20% of homes in England were privately rented in 2014, double the proportion in 2002.

The number of households in the sector has been driven up by rising house prices and the recent credit crunch which have made it difficult to buy, and the reduction in social housing let by councils.

Matt Hutchinson, director of the house sharing website SpareRoom.co.uk, said in some parts of London 13 tenants were competing for each room advertised.

“It’s no surprise rents are soaring. We have a chronic shortage of housing in the areas where jobs are being created, so rents continue to rise as supply fails to meet demand,” he said.

“The upward pressure on rents is rapidly making the situation both unmanageable and unsustainable for tenants.”

Housing has become a key focus of the election campaign, with Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green party all making pledges to limit rent rises if they get into power.

Research by letting agents Your Move and Reeds Rains showed rents in England and Wales had increased by 15% since May 2010, or 3.6% beyond CPI inflation.

Its data for more than 20,000 rented properties showed the average rent had gone up from £667 a month at the time of the last election to £768 in March 2015.


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