The pace of private sector rent rises picked up in February amid continued strong demand in the sector from tenants, a major lettings network has reported.
Rents rose by 1.6% year-on-year across England and Wales to reach £743 a month on average, following a 1.4% annual increase in January, according to LSL Property Services, which owns national chains Your Move and Reeds Rains.
LSL said rents increased by 0.1%, or around £1, between January and February, marking the first monthly increase seen since last October.
The sharpest monthly rises were seen in Yorkshire and Humber and the West Midlands, where both regions saw a 1.2% hike. Rents in Yorkshire and the Humber average £535 a month and in the West Midlands they have increased to £561 typically.
The next fastest month-on-month increase was seen in Wales, where rents have risen by 1.0% to reach around £556. The South East saw the biggest month-on-month fall in rents, with a 1.5% drop taking rents to around £755.
But on an annual basis the South East has seen the biggest rise in rents, with a 4.7% increase. This was followed by a 3.1% rise in London, where rents are now around £1,126 and a 2.2% rise in the
North West where the average monthly rent is £582.
Despite great improvements in the prospects of many first-time buyers, there are still millions of households who rely on a healthy private rented sector for their homes."
Mortgage support schemes such as Help to Buy have made it easier for many people who had previously been living in the rental sector because they only had a small deposit saved to buy a house to finally clear the hurdle onto the property ladder in recent months.
Chancellor George Osborne confirmed plans in the Budget to extend the first phase of Help to Buy, which was launched in England last spring, until the end of the decade.
Ministers hope this will support the construction of 120,000 more new homes, while the "first new garden city in almost a hundred years" will be built at Ebbsfleet, Kent.
But charity Shelter said LSL's latest figures are further evidence of the "chronic shortage of affordable homes".
Campbell Robb, Shelter's chief executive, said: "These figures mean yet another squeeze on the budgets of England's nine million renters.
"Our chronic shortage of affordable homes and sky-rocketing house prices are forcing growing numbers of people into unstable and expensive private lets.
"But the huge cost of renting leaves many cutting down on their food or heating, or trapped in homes too small for their families."
LSL's figures, which are based on rents achieved on 20,000 properties, showed tenant arrears fell to the second lowest point on its records in February, with 6.9% of all rent late or unpaid.
Mr Newnes said the falling rental arrears are a sign that household finances are "on the mend" amid the improving economy.