New tenants renting from private landlords in Scotland have been faced with the highest percentage rental increases in Britain outside London, according to a new survey.

The latest figures from the HomeLet Rental Index published today holds that rents on new tenancies signed on a UK rental property outside of London over the three months to March 2016 were, on average, 4.9 per cent higher than in the same period of last year.

In Greater London the figure was 7.7 per cent higher than a year ago. But Scotland wasn’t far behind with an increase of 7.3 per cent in the same period, just ahead of the East Midlands with 6.8 per cent.

This compares with 3.3 per cent for Wales while in the north-west of England, rents actually fell over the year by 3.5 per cent.

The most recent information shows the average rent in London to be £1,536 a month, followed by £950 for the south east of England. In Scotland it was £677; in Wales £596 ; while the north east of England was lowest with £531.

The data comes ahead of reforms which are predicted to have a major impact within the sector, including a stamp duty increase for landlords buying new properties to let, new rules from regulators on buy-to-let lending and limiting tax relief on mortgage interest payments to the basic rate.

The HomeLet Rental Index claims to provide the most comprehensive and up to date data on new tenancies in the UK, processing around 350,000 prospective tenants each year,

HomeLet is part of the Barbon Insurance Group, which provides insurance products to the private rented sector.

Martin Totty, Barbon’s CEO, said: “We’ve continued to see increases in rents on new tenancies in almost every part of the UK during the first quarter, as the private rental market has responded to the pressures of an imbalance between demand and supply.

“However, external factors may now come into play: the stamp duty increase has already had an impact and that surge in the acquisition of property by landlords could now cause a short-term increase in the supply of rental property in some areas of the country. In the longer term, changes to rules around buy-to-let mortgage interest being offset against tax bills, coupled with the Bank of England’s instruction to lenders to apply more exacting criteria on buy-to-let lending, may have a limiting effect on supply."

But a spokesman said that while the Scottish Government could not comment during the pre-election purdah period, he pointed to recent Official Statistics published from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which showed private rental prices rising by 2.8% in England, 0.2% in Wales and 0.7% in Scotland in the 12 months to February 2016.

Meeanwhile Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said private renters in Scotland were are already paying some of the highest rents in Europe.

“Many thousands of people across Scotland, especially those on low incomes, are already struggling to make ends meet and a rise in housing costs only makes it harder for them to keep a roof over their head.”

He said Scotland was in the midst of a housing crisis caused by the high cost of housing and the stuttering supply of new affordable homes set against high and rising demand.

"Until there is a step change in the supply of truly affordable housing this will not change. That’s why we are calling on all political parties ahead of May’s Holyrood election to commit to supply at least 12,000 new affordable homes each year for the next five years. This will bring hope of a home of their own to the 150,000 families and individuals on council waiting lists across Scotland.”