The average rent for a newly let property rose 3.3 per cent in the year to the end of February - obviously ahead of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Data from Countrywide’s upmarket Hamptons International brand, released this morning, shows that cities have seen the biggest rental growth - up 5.4 per cent in the past year, compared with just 1.8 per cent in towns and suburbs, and 1.1 per cent in the countryside.
Of the 20 largest cities in Great Britain, four out of the five which have seen the cost of a new let rise the most are - predictably - in southern England.
Bristol recorded the highest growth, with the average rent rising 6.6 per cent over the last year, twice the average for Britain as a whole. Oxford (5.0 per cent), Norwich (4.8 per cent), Glasgow (2.9 per cent) and London (3.0 per cent) make up the rest of the top five, says Hamptons.
All southern cities have moved up the agency’s rental league table compared with the previous year apart from Brighton.
Meanwhile Aberdeen, Birmingham and Leeds are the only cities where rents have fallen over the last year - in fact, Aberdeen has had the weakest rental growth for the second consecutive year.
Most northern cities sit in the middle of the top 20, a reversal of three years ago when they dominated the top of the list with the highest rental growth.
On a regional basis the rate of rental growth has increased across Britain, tripling from 1.1 per cent in February 2019 to 3.3 per cent in February 2020.
The average home to let now costs £997 per calendar month.
“Affordability barriers, making it harder for people to buy a home, tend to be higher in southern cities. It’s in these areas where demand for rental properties often outpaces supply” explains Aneisha Beveridge, head of research at Hamptons International.
“In recent years this has been exacerbated by falling rental stock levels, particularly in the south, where taxation changes have hit lower yielding landlords hardest. And it is the combination of these factors that has driven rental growth - as a result, the North-South rental divide has increased for the third year in a row” she adds.