Nearly half of private renters have faced a rent increase in the last year, Generation Rent research has found, as it calls for the government to impose a rent freeze to fight the cost of living crisis.

In a survey, nearly half of private renters who had lived in their home for longer than a year (45%) had been asked for a higher rent. Of those, 81% are paying what their landlord asked for, with just 14% having been able to negotiate a lower rent.

Market rents increased by 11.8% between Q2 2021 and Q2 2022 in the UK as a whole, according to Rightmove. This is worth £119 extra per month on the average rent, or £1426 per year, twice the average increase in the energy price cap in April.

And there is little stopping landlords from asking their current tenants to pay this increase. One in five renters (20%) who faced a rent increase in their current tenancy were asked to pay more than £100 extra per month. Just over half of them paid it (54%), just 28% successfully negotiated a smaller increase, while 13% were forced to move out.

People who faced a rent increase are more likely to be most concerned about paying the rent (32%) compared with paying energy bills, than those who have not had a rent rise (20%).

Concern about energy bills remains the highest concern for both groups – 43% of respondents who had faced a rent increase said paying utility bills was their biggest concern in terms of rising prices, rising to 49% of people who had not.

People getting state support with their rent have been more likely to have been asked to pay more rent in the past year, despite Local Housing Allowance being frozen since March 2020. 46% of private renters on benefits have been asked to pay more compared with 43% of private renters not receiving benefits.

One in nine private renters getting Universal Credit or Housing Benefit (11%) is already in rent arrears, and a further 39% are cutting back on spending, using savings or borrowing money to stay on top of rent. Moreover, nearly a third of private renters who don’t get these benefits (31%) are making similar sacrifices to pay rent.

When asked what approach they will take to cope with the cost of living crisis, the most common answer among private renters not getting benefits is using their savings (35%) and for private renters getting benefits it is “don’t know” with 39%. 14% of all private renters say they will use more credit, while just 10% feel able to work more hours.

With energy bills set to increase even further, Generation Rent is calling on the government to protect renters from in-tenancy rent increases by freezing rents on existing tenancies, suspending no-fault evictions, and making all other evictions discretionary, to stop people who fall into arrears for reasons beyond their control from being made homeless.

Alicia Kennedy, Director of Generation Rent, said: “With energy bills about to shoot up once again, renters cannot afford to be blindsided by an increase in their rent. The country faces the real prospect of millions of people being unable to find the money to cover rent, heat their homes comfortably and put food on the table.

“Renters are terrified, knowing they face a winter of destitution. Ultimately that will lead to a further rise in evictions and homelessness. The government must intervene and temporarily stop landlords from raising the rent, as well as pausing evictions to keep renters in their homes.”