Rents in Tauranga continue to soar to record levels with new figures revealing the average rent jumping $45 in 12 months, but there are signs the tide is about to turn, experts say.
Figures released to the Bay of Plenty Times by Trade Me show Tauranga city's average rent rose to $440 last month compared to $395 for the same month last year.
The property rental index for September 2016 showed the average rent in the Western Bay had an even sharper rise to $390 a week, compared to $325 the year prior.
The wider Bay of Plenty recorded an average rent of $430 compared to $390.
Gary Prentice of BOP Rentals said the increasing costs of rent had exacerbated the local property climate for tenants in the past 12 months, but he believed the tide was about to turn.
"We are hearing more of people doubling up, people living in cars; families, mums and kids. And rent is going up on top of that. It's tough . . . it has gotten progressively worse but I think there's a bit of a levelling out. There has been occasions where the high rents haven't been achieved.''
Scroll down to read about a terminally ill mother-of-three's story of why she's had to move because she couldn't get a rental in Tauranga.
Mr Prentice said some clients who moved down from Auckland tried to ask for ''Auckland rents'' of up to $700 per week. However, they were forced to reduce the rent when they had no takers.
''The rents thing has got to the point where you are at your maximum for what people can afford. People aren't paying those extreme prices. The levelling off already seems to have happened, but it is tough out there,'' Mr Prentice said.
Tauranga Rentals owner Dan Lusby said renters were definitely the losers of the property boom.
''We are at the level now where we thought we would never be at two years ago,'' he said.
''So many people are coming here and if you read all the reports from Priority One and how much effort they are making to encourage businesses to Tauranga, which is great, bring all those people, but we have to house them.''
The rents thing has got to the point where you are at your maximum for what people can afford.
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Mr Lusby said another issue was that barely anyone was building one- or two-bedroom dwellings, often ideal for people seeking to rent.
Local councils needed to look at creating high-density housing to address the demand, he said.
''Rents are going up. We've got tenants who have been tenants at a property for a long, long time and now they are struggling to pay.''
Mr Lusby said the demand for property in the Bay made it harder for renters with a chequered history to find places. He strongly urged renters to always pay on time and to keep their homes clean, saying without a good reference they would struggle to find another place, especially now.
Tommy Wilson from Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services agreed that ''things seem to be tapering off''.
''I think we've come through the spiralling rent increases now. Hopefully we can get it [Tauranga's housing problem] right before winter. If we can't, there's little hope for the rest of New Zealand.''
Mr Wilson's organisation helps give prospective tenants a warrant of fitness offering landlords a level of confidence.
Ross Stanway, chief executive of Eves and Bayleys Real Estate, said rents had been increasing in step with house prices and both were driven by the same factors.
"There's just more people coming here to either work or retire and enjoy life so that is having an effect both on house prices and rental prices. I think we're seeing signs of that everywhere."
Mr Stanway said there were a lot of businesses now relocating to the Bay which meant more people were being employed and more people were coming to the region for jobs.
"That's all having an impact on the housing market. The positive is if it was heading in the other direction, we would all be extremely worried. It's not, things are booming and that's reflected in the house and rental prices."
No one from Trade Me was available for comment.
Terminally ill mother Sonia Howes is leaving Tauranga after struggling to find a home amid souring rents.
After signing the lease on Friday, the mother-of-three is moving out of her hometown for a rental property in Galatea in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
"I didn't have any luck in Tauranga. It's like you have to be a certain type of family or person. So I started looking out of town and found a four-bedroom house for $180 in Galatea," she said.
Last June, Ms Howes was diagnosed with lung cancer, small cell adenocarcinoma of the left lung. Her struggle to find a home for her family featured in the Bay of Plenty Times last month. She shares custody of her children, aged 5, 7 and 8, with their father, who is in Tauranga.
"I noticed rent was going up in Tauranga - within the time we did the story it shot up another $30 and Rotorua was climbing as well. I looked in Tirau, Rotorua, Whakatane, Ohope and Galatea," she said.
The 39-year-old said trying to find a rental property in Tauranga was "impossible".
She was sad she had been forced to leave but was glad to finally have housing security.
"I have lived in Tauranga since Bellevue Primary when I was 9, then I worked here and now I'm on a benefit because of cancer. I can't work now, I can't afford to live here.
"If I was working full-time I'd probably be okay to pay for everything in Tauranga. I always have before. Now it's had a major shift in how the city is growing and the money to be made in the right businesses, like rentals."
Ms Howes said most landlords did not seem to want tenants who were on a benefit or who had children.
2012 - $330
2013 - $340
2014 - $350
2015 - $395
2016 - $440
Western Bay of Plenty
2012 - $277.5
2013 - $290
2014 - $300
2015 - $325
2016 - $390
Bay of Plenty region
2012 - $320
2013 - $340
2014 - $340
2015 - $390
2016 - $430
Source - Trade Me. * Figures are for the month of September