Demand for rented accommodation reached record levels during the second quarter of the year, research indicated today.
Countrywide, the UK's largest letting agent, said 50,480 people wanting to rent a property registered with it during the three months to the end of June, the highest level it has recorded since it started collecting the data in 2003.
The figure was also 16% higher than demand was during the first three months of the year.
June saw the biggest spike in demand with more than 18,000 new tenants registering for rented accommodation, the highest number ever recorded during a single month and 22% more than in May.
But the increase in the number of people looking to rent a home contrasted with a 6% fall in the number of properties being made available to let during the period.
As a result there are now an average of 5.5 tenants competing for every property, up from 4.9 tenants per property during the first quarter of the year.
Demand is highest for two-bedroom properties in the South West, where there are 23.1 people chasing each available home.
The group said the mismatch between supply and demand had led to a "marginal increase" in rents, particularly on houses, with the average cost of letting a four-bedroom home rising by 4% during the quarter to £1,090.
Properties are also now being snapped up within an average of two weeks - six days less than during the final three months of 2009.
John Hards, co-managing director of Countrywide Residential Lettings, said: "The number of tenants entering the market is at unprecedented levels, and we have yet to enter the peak season.
"Student demand for private rental accommodation will increase further with university applications at record levels.
"The buy-to-let sector remains a good source of investment, however, the Government needs to do more to incentivise new landlords in order to appease the current shortage of properties.
"If tenant levels continue to rise at the same rate, this will be further exacerbated."Reuse content