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Rents have risen 4% in the last 12 months

Around 8.5% of all rent in England and Wales is now in arrears

Rents in March reversed a four-month downward trend, according to new figures from LSL Property Services, owner of national chains Your Move and Reeds Rains.

It follows recent research from housing charity Shelter that suggests nearly two thirds of renters are struggling or falling behind with their rent.

The LSL figures show that compared to February, the average rent in England and Wales rose by 0.5 per cent to £735 per month, making rents in March 4.2 per cent higher than a year ago.

The highest rise was in London. A 1.3 per cent price hike means rents there now average £1,106 per month. Rents in the North East were up 0.9% compared to February, and in Yorkshire/Humber the growth was 0.6 per cent. Rents dropped the fastest in the South West (0.5 per cent) and Wales (0.4 per cent).

London has had easily the fastest annual increase, as rents in the capital are now 7.9 per cent more expensive than a year ago. Wales and the East Midlands saw rises of 3.9 per cent, the North East 3 per cent, and only the South West experienced a drop (0.2 per cent).

“This month witnessed even more divergence between London and the rest of the country," said David Newnes, director of LSL Property Services. "But the overall picture is clear. With only modest improvements in the UK’s housing supply, rents will keep being forcedupwards.”

Meanwhile, the total amount of rent late or unpaid has increased. Total arrears in March were £284m, rising £36m from £248m in February. This equates to 8.5 per cent of all rent across England and Wales.