Private rents fell for the fourth month in a row in February as a more vibrant sales market eased some of the strain on the sector, a lettings network has said.
Average rents dipped by 0.1% to reach £731 per month, although they are still 3.3% higher than a year ago, according to LSL Property Services, which owns chains Your Move and Reeds Rains.
The pace of the month-on-month decline slowed compared with January, meaning rents are poised to push upwards again as the market moves into spring, said the study. And despite the overall drop in rents nationally, the number of regions recording monthly rent increases and falls was evenly split across England and Wales during February.
The recent seasonal lull follows a period of strong rent increases, as many tenants have found themselves trapped in the sector because they were unable to access a mortgage. However, there have been recent signs that Government efforts to unblock the housing market are helping to give people an extra shove onto the property ladder.
The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) reported on Wednesday that lending to home buyers has got off to its best start to the year since 2008. Much of the boost was due to first-time buyers, who made up more than two-fifths of the mortgages advanced for house purchase in January.
The drop in rents has also helped tenants to improve their finances, with 7.4% of rent late or unpaid at the end of last month, marking the lowest proportion seen since last November.
Recent research from housing charity Shelter has found that some families have been resorting to "drastic" measures such as raiding their children's savings and using expensive payday loans and credit cards to cover their rent.
Bucking the national trend, Wales saw the biggest monthly increase in rents, with a 1.8% jump taking average rents there to £569. The North West recorded the strongest monthly decline, with a 1.3% drop to reach £570 typically.
London, the North East, the West Midlands and the East Midlands all posted month-on-month rent increases, while the East of England, the South West, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the South East all saw drops.
David Newnes, director of LSL Property Services, said the rental market is yet to "burst into life" this year.