The number of tenants being evicted through the courts by private landlords has increased by 17% since the credit crunch began at the end of 2007.
Analysis of possession order claims by legal information specialist Sweet & Maxwell shows that 14,895 were launched in county courts by private landlords in 2011 compared to 12,686 in 2008. A possession order legally entitles a landlord to evict a tenant and regain possession of a property.
The firm says unemployment and rising rents are likely to have caused the increase in tenant evictions. Rents have risen by 8% since 2009, reaching a record high at the end of 2011, according to the LSL rental index.
Data published by the Office for National Statistics in February showed that the number of UK unemployed rose to 2.67 million in the three months to December 2011 – the highest level since 1995.
"Rising unemployment will obviously have an immediate and clear impact on an individual's expenditure and financial obligations," said Daniel Dovar, co-author of Residential Possession Proceedings, published by Sweet & Maxwell.
"Many landlords may feel they have little option other than to evict tenants who are not paying full rent and who can no longer guarantee that their rent will be paid in the foreseeable future."
Tenants who are unemployed can claim for housing benefit. But the government introduced lower limits which restricted the amount paid out to tenants signing up to new rental contracts in 2011 and renewing existing ones in 2012.
The limits have caused shortfalls between the amount of benefit paid to tenants and the rent charged by landlords, particularly in London and the south-east where rents are highest.
But while David Cameron has stated that the lower housing benefit limits will force landlords to reduce rental levels, rents in these areas have continued to rise as high levels of demand mean landlords can easily replace tenants in arrears.
Dovar said: "Higher demand for rental properties also means private landlords are less likely to have an overly sympathetic approach to tenants defaulting on their rent or who are behaving antisocially. They may have a stream of potential tenants waiting for properties to become free so they are less concerned about the property remaining empty if they evict existing tenants.
"Another factor is that fewer people now have access to mortgages and are consequently renting for longer. This has been pushing up demand since the start of the credit crunch – and landlords have been able to gain higher yields from their rental property."