Controversial housing charity Shelter claims that private renters are collectively paying out £11 billion more a year – around £425 a month per household - on rent than they can actually afford.
The charity says its calculations use a "widely accepted measure of affordability" that rents should take up no more than 30 per cent of household income.
“For some people, that might be manageable but for those on lower incomes, even 30% will be too much” says Shelter.
It reaches its conclusions of an apparent overspend by comparing government data on average private rents and income.
Under this method private rents are typically 41 per cent of incomes on average; four in 10 families are spending more than 30 per cent of income on rent.
Shelter claims over a third of the £11 billion falls on the poorest one-fifth of households.
"When someone is forced to spend hundreds more than they can afford on rent each month, it's clear that private renting isn't working for everyone” according to Shelter’s chief executive Polly Neate.
The charity adds that the single best way to tackle high rents is by investing in social housebuilding.
But it warns: “With the number of social houses being built at its lowest for 70 years, homelessness spiralling, and 1.1m households currently stuck in limbo on the waiting list, it’s clear that our political parties must commit to building a new generation of social homes now.”