Between April and June the number of tenants in severe rental arrears - defined as being more than two months behind on payments - rose by 3.3 per cent over the previous three months, according to figures from LSL Property Services, owners of Templeton LPA, the specialist practice of LPA Receivers.
The number of tenants in severe arrears rose by 3,000 to 98,000 in the same period, making it the third highest level on record. Those in serious arrears now represent 2.4 per cent of all tenancies in England and Wales.
Paul Jardine, director and receiver at Templeton LPA, said: “A troubled minority is feeling the pinch sharply. Slower rent rises in the last couple of months have provided some relief. However, the longer-term battle is with other forms of inflation, plus unemployment and anaemic wage growth. Consumer inflation is persistently outpacing the Bank of England’s target, and escalating much faster than either rents or wages.
"If 2013 isn’t another false economic dawn then the financial position of these struggling tenants could start to improve later in the year. But tenants in severe arrears will be among those squinting the hardest to glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel. Whether the recession included a single, double or triple dip makes very little difference – there are a growing block of tenants who can’t keep their heads above the rising tide of inflation and weak wage growth. Until the rising cost of living begins to subside, the number of tenants in severe arrears is likely to mushroom even further."
The number of tenants facing eviction through court order has also grown - in the first three months of 2013 nearly 28,500 tenants faced eviction notices,the highest level ever recorded.
Latest Census figures from the Office of National Statistics show that 1 in 5 families in England now rent from a private landlord. Housing charity Shelter has warned that unless the Government builds more affordable homes to tackle the housing shortage, more families will join ‘generation rent’.
Campbell Robb, Shelter’s Chief Executive, said: "Stagnant wages and rising rents make it easy to understand why so many people are struggling to keep up with their rent, with some on the brink of losing their homes. The downward spiral that leads to mounting arrears can seem impossible to get out of, and at Shelter we see families every day who are simply unable to stretch their incomes far enough to cope with escalating bills.
"It’s easy for people to bury their heads in the sand and hope the problems will go away, but we urge anyone struggling to keep up with payments to seek advice as early as possible."