Tenants facing soaring rents are resorting to drastic measures such as using payday loans and dipping into their children's savings just to hang on to their homes, a charity warned today.

Shelter is calling for greater stability to be built into tenancy contracts so families are not forced to make "impossible choices".

Rents have soared as many would-be home buyers remain trapped in the rental sector because of the high deposits required to get a mortgage (see our First-Time Buyers guide to work out if you can afford a home loan).

The charity says calls to its helpline about rent increases or arrears have risen by almost a third over the past year.

Almost two thirds (63%) of 4,300 people living in privately rented housing in England who took part in a Shelter survey said they were struggling to pay their rent or had fallen behind.

One in 12 renting parents have been forced to borrow cash from their children to cover their bills, while one in 33 have taken out a high-interest payday loan to cover their rent costs, according to the charity.

Meanwhile, one in seven renters have used a credit card to pay their rent. One in 17 have had to leave their rented home because of a rent rise, equating to almost 515,000 people across England.

One quarter (26%) of renters told Shelter they had suffered rent increases in the last year, with annual rises averaging £300 as wages remain stagnant.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, says: "This is proof that the growing cost of renting is hitting families where it hurts, forcing them to make impossible choices about what they can cut back on next.

"When families are forced to resort to taking money from their children's savings or paying their rent on a credit card, it's a clear sign that sudden rent rises are pushing many ordinary families to the edge"