to let signs UK rents
Rents in England grew by 2.8% on average in the year to March 2016Getty

Rents are still rising faster than earnings in England, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In the year to March 2016, private rents grew 2.8% on average, well ahead of the 1.8% growth in weekly earnings.

A housing shortage in England is pushing up rents. Housebuilding is running well below the estimated 200,000 and 300,000 new homes needed a year. Government statistics show there were just 142,890 housing completions in England in 2015, though this was a 21% annual increase.

"As the spring market warms up, recent weeks may have been the last of the best deals for those signing a new tenancy," said Adrian Gill, director of lettings agents, Your Move and Reeds Rains estate agents. "Into April, market rents will start to build a gradual but inevitable path, ultimately reaching the very peak of the market in the autumn. Early spring is just the calm before the storm."

Landlord groups warn that tax hikes on the buy-to-let sector, including cuts to relief packages for mortgage interest and maintenance costs, as well as a 3% extra levy on stamp duty for purchases of additional property, will result in a smaller supply of rental housing — forcing rents higher. But the Treasury says it is levelling the market's playing field for struggling first-time buyers.

Below is the regional breakdown for the rise in rents across England, according to the ONS private rental index for March 2016.

Region% change, year to March 2016
England2.8
North East0.8
North West1.1
Yorkshire & the Humber1.2
East Midlands2.7
West Midlands1.9
East3
London3.7
South East2.9
South West1.7