Budget 2017
Rents in London and the South East have grown by a third since 2007Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The cost of renting a property in Britain declined for the first time in over six years last month, largely thanks to falling rents across London and the South East of England.

Estate agency Countrywide said on Monday (13 March) that the average rent across the country stood at £920 ($1,123) last month, a 0.6% year-on-year drop and the first decline recorded since November 2010.

The monthly cost of renting a property fell sharply both in the capital and in the South East, declining 4.7% in the former and 2.6% in the latter. Lower rents in London were partly aided by a significant increase in the number of properties available, which was 18% higher than in the corresponding period in 2016, while the metric rose 9% on a country-wide basis.

The capital and the South East also recorded a decline in the number of people looking for a property, which was 3% and 5% lower year-on-year respectively. However, across Britain there were 5% more tenants looking for a property than in the corresponding period a year ago.

Excluding London, prices rose 0.8% year-on-year to £815,000, although, compared to January, growth slowed in nine of the 11 regions surveyed, with only the West Midlands and the east recording faster growth than in the first month of 2017.

However, cheaper rents in London and the South East will do little for tenants, who have seen the cost of rent in both regions surge by over 30% over the last 10 years.

"Recent falls in London and the South East are small in the context growth in recent years," said Johnny Morris, research director at Countrywide.

"Rents are a third higher in London and the South East than in 2007.

"Early signs point towards 2017 being a rare year where rents rise faster in the north of the country than in the south. While rents are likely to track any increase in earnings, affordability in London and the South East remains stretched. That is likely to limit rental growth."