Tenants moving house face steep rental hikes but the overall market is rising at a more moderate rate.
Australian National University research fellow Ben Phillips says rents are actually only a little higher than they were before COVID-19 hit.
He said asking or advertised rents - which are often used to measure changes in the rental market - tend to move up and down much more rapidly than official Australian Bureau of Statistics data that captures the actual rent paid.
Using ABS data, total rental costs have increased by 1.6 per cent in the year to June.
With many tenants staying on their existing contracts and not all properties advertised, Mr Phillips says there is often a divergence between actual rents paid and advertised rents.
He said rental growth has in reality been fairly slow over the past 10 years, largely due to the big supply of unit developments helping to contain rental prices.
However, Mr Phillips told AAP it was tough for renters looking for a new place in many areas and for people on low incomes.
"There are pockets of crisis among people looking for new rentals but it's not across the board at this stage," he said.
Rental price averages also tend to obscure what's happening at different ends of the market, Community Housing Industry Association chief executive officer Wendy Hayhurst said.
She told AAP there was much competition at the bottom end of the market, and that most housing investment focused on the premium end.
Not only is there a shortage of lower cost housing, she said people on low incomes were often competing with people on moderate incomes who want an affordable rental so they can save a deposit to buy.
"That's why we are seeing more stress at the bottom end of the market," she said.