More than 100,000 private tenants in England and Wales are struggling with "severe arrears", a study has suggested.
The number of tenants estimated to be more than two months behind on their rent climbed by 8% in the second quarter of 2012 to reach around 100,400 people, according to chartered surveyors Templeton LPA, a specialist practice of LPA (Law of Property Act) receivers.
The figure is 24% higher than a year ago and is the biggest since the tenant arrears tracker records began in 2008, with tough employment conditions and soaring rents as people remain unable to get on the property ladder -seen as the main contributors to the rise.
Paul Jardine, director and receiver at Templeton LPA, said: "Falling wages in real terms have been compounded by rising rents, pushing a greater number of rented households over the edge financially.
"With the instability in the labour market and wider economy, and public sector cuts still to come, the section of renters in multiple months of arrears is likely to continue its expansion."
In the second quarter of 2012, tenancies in severe arrears represented 2.6% of all tenancies in the private rented sector in England and Wales - an increase from 2.4% in the previous quarter.
Despite the rise in the number of tenants with severe arrears, the general level of tenant arrears across the market as a whole has improved, with 8.9% of all rent in the private rented sector late or unpaid by the end of May, a decrease from 9.9% at the end of April.
Mr Jardine said: "The wider rental market currently includes a much higher proportion of financially comfortable tenants who would have been buyers before the initial credit crunch, reining in general arrears across the market as a whole."
Kay Boycott, director of campaigns, policy and communications at Shelter, said: "This is yet more evidence of the crushing impact that rising rents and stagnating wages are having on family finances.
"Shelter research found that average private rents are now unaffordable for working families in over half of England, with many paying up to half of their income each month."