By Lea Pachta

A significant number of tenants are still struggling with rental payments, according to the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA).

Results from the latest ARLA survey show that 55 per cent of members have seen an increase in tenants struggling to meet their rental payments.

Despite being a decrease on the previous quarter, this figure remains worryingly high.

Ian Potter, Operations Manager of ARLA, said: "Unemployment has been the primary factor behind rental arrears throughout the recession. If the jobless total rises in 2010 it is inevitable that the number of tenants forced to default on their rent will also increase."

"The housing market looks increasingly buoyant with demand for rental properties having risen strongly since October. The problem of rental arrears will therefore persist and potentially grow in seriousness as tenants get caught in a web of debt."

As rental arrears begin to stack up residents run the risk of being evicted from their property. Simultaneously, landlords could be forced to default on their mortgage repayments which would ultimately lead to the property itself being repossessed.

"As the housing market continues to pick up and demand begins to exceed supply, there is likely to be an increase of new landlords and properties in the rental sector." Mr Potter explained.

"It is crucial that agents engage in a careful selection process for both tenants and landlords, and ensure the relevant contracts and agreements are in place."

The ARLA licensing scheme, launched last year, aims to drive up standards in the lettings industry. But ARLA believes that the Government must also act to create uniform legislation to nurture the improving housing market and protect both consumers and landlords.