Rotorua rentals are being advertised for more than the city's median weekly rent as desperate tenants fight for a roof over their head, experts say.
For $470 per week, potential tenants can get a three-bedroom home in an "average suburb in an average condition" but some landlords are charging a lot more.
A local budget advice expert fears more families and individuals could become homeless if the cost of rent keeps rising.
The news comes as the Bay of Plenty's median weekly rent has hit an all-time high of $550.
Rotorua Property Investors Association president Debbie Van Den Broek said for $470 you could get a three-bedroom house in an "average suburb in average condition".
But with demand outstripping supply, some landlords with "average" properties could ask for more rent.
"Some houses that are $550 are only worth around $470 but because there's a shortage, landlords are getting away with asking for a bit extra."
Van Den Broek said the rental company she co-owned had 75 properties owned by 37 owners on the books and the Property Investors Association had about 60 to 70 couples who owned houses.
"I think there are houses out there but it's just picking the right tenant," she said.
"People are leaving their rentals empty rather than having bad tenants. The marginal tenants will find it tough.
"People aren't going to be keen to give people a second chance and it's going to get far worse than it has ever been."
Simon Anderson, managing director of the Realty Group Limited which operates Eves and Bayleys, said there was still plenty of demand for rental property.
"If we get a good home to rent there are 20, 30, 40 people wanting to get into it.
"It's just unfortunate it's getting to that level where for some people it has become unaffordable."
Anderson said it was a balancing act between landlords retaining good tenants but also protecting their investment.
"Landlords want good tenants. They're investing more into their properties to comply with new standards and they want them looked after."
Rotorua Budget Advisory Services manager Pakanui Tuhura said the wages and salaries of many people had not kept pace with the rising rental costs.
Until then, people would be looking to either increase household income outside of wages through boarders and family sharing, or for affordable accommodation in and out of Rotorua, he said.
Tuhura said people were sacrificing things they thought they could do without or not keeping up with debt repayments.
"The latter just makes things worse of course because then penalties are added and costs of debt collection.
"When they start sacrificing things like food and power then we know that things are getting close to breaking point.
"Besides the obvious sacrifice of essential needs such as food and power, I am concerned that if rents continue to rise we will see an increase in homeless families, not just homeless individuals."
McDowell Property Management Limited business development manager Rhiannon Greenwood said rising rents were a reflection of the scarcity of rental properties available, legislation changes and tighter restrictions on the quality of property.
"A lot of properties have had to have work done to bring them up to the Healthy Homes Standards, which has, in turn, brought an increase in prices nationwide."
Greenwood said it had been difficult for people to be able to afford to rent at times "as we haven't seen prices like this in the past".
"However, people are still affording the homes and we are not having any troubles tenanting properties."
Most decent-sized homes were above the median weekly rent of $470.
"To get under it is more likely to be a studio or unit type of property with fewer bedrooms and space as this is all reflected in rental prices."
Tauranga Rentals Limited manager Dan Lusby said demand for rentals was high and many people were lowering their standards just to get into a home.
"When they see something they have to move quick.
"That's why a lot of them are accepting less than what they're used to, some want a nice house [but] are going into older houses just to get a place."
Lusby said they only had about half a dozen rentals on their books, which could range from $360 to $800 per week, and were being snapped up within days.
"There's demand for all of them."
Trade Me property sales director Gavin Lloyd said every region in the country saw an annual increase in rent in January, with seven of the country's 15 regions hitting all-time highs.
The largest percentage increases were seen in Manawatu/Whanganui (17 per cent), Marlborough (13 per cent), and Northland (11 per cent) which all saw median weekly rents reach an all-time high.
"Auckland ($590), Bay of Plenty ($550) and Nelson/Tasman ($500) also saw median weekly rents reach all-time highs."