By the end of May, a staggering 557,170 tenants had not paid their rent. One in seven of these were over two months late stumping up what they owed their landlords.
Overall, tenants in England and Wales were behind with the rent by a collective £254million, equivalent to over one ninth (11.6%) of the country’s rent payable that month.
David Brown, commercial director of LSL, said: "Tenants on lower rents are most likely to fall behind with their payments.
"These people are usually in lower-paid jobs and have found themselves much more vulnerable to the economic downturn.
"Landlords tend to be quite flexible with tenants who begin to fall behind with their rent.
"Two-thirds of those in arrears are less than a month late and most of them quickly get up to speed again. Even among the rest, a large number will not lose their homes, but landlords, needing to protect their own livelihoods, often then begin taking steps to remove those unable to keep up with the rent.
"Eviction is a real last resort – a landlord would far rather have a tenant who is slightly behind with his rent, but who is likely to catch up than face a costly void when no rent is received at all."
Although the figures look bad, they actually represent an improvement on the picture back in November when the first big waves of job losses in the UK were being felt.
At that time, arrears totalled £278million, equivalent to 13.5% of all rents due. Some 622,000 tenants had fallen behind with their rent at that time and 151,000 faced possible eviction.
Brown said: "There has been a large shift in the private rented sector over the past year. Tens of thousands of would-be buyers have accumulated in the rented sector.
"Frozen out of the housing market by the need for a large deposit, or simply waiting out the housing market downturn, these people generally have good incomes and credit records. They are far less likely to default on their rent and make excellent tenants. For landlords the key question is how long this group will wait before buying their own homes."
There are big regional variations. Welsh tenants were the worst payers in May, while those in London were most likely to keep up to date.
Overall Wales ranks as the worst region to be a landlord. Yields on property are the lowest, void periods the longest and arrears the highest of any part of the country.
Even though it has lower yields than the North West, after adjusting for voids and arrears, Yorkshire and the Humber offers landlords the best income on their capital, just ahead of the North West.
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