First there was road rage, now its rental rage.

Real estate agents managing Sydney’s rental market are copping abuse and threats from prospective tenants due to the squeeze on property vacancies.

Sydney rental vacancies in August remained at 1.2 per cent – unchanged from the previous month, the Real Estate Institute of NSW reports.

With no improvement to the number of properties available in the city, institute president Steve Martin said people unable to find accommodation were venting their frustration on agents.

“The situation is now so grave that we are unfortunately experiencing incidents of rental rage with the real estate agents saying they are being abused and threatened,” Martin said in a statement.

A survey of 200 agents around NSW in August found that about a third of respondents had been threatened or abused over the phone by potential tenants within the past month.

In one case police had to be called after the face-to-face harassment of an agency reception staff member.

In another incident, a tenant in arrears who was facing a rent increase and eviction threatened to hang himself in the house so no one else would want to live in it.

“These are very disturbing findings and when you look at the specific incident referred to by (agents) you get a very real insight into what is happening at the rental coal face,” Martin said.

“Whilst it does not excuse such behaviour, it is clear that much of it is being generated by the rental vacancy crisis which continues to grip NSW.

“People have become so desperate to secure a property that (agents) have been offered bribes and even had prospective tenants break down because they `cannot compete with the number of people looking for properties’.”

The latest vacancy rates show a slight improvement for inner-Sydney (within 10km of the CBD) rental properties, up from 1.2 per cent in July to 1.4 per cent in August.

However, the availability of properties between 10km and 25km away from the CBD has dropped from 1.3 per cent in July to 1.1 per cent in August.

Vacancy rates in the Hunter and Illawarra both improved slightly, at 2.1 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively, while the Central Coast recorded 3.1 per cent vacancy in August, a drop of 0.1 per cent on the previous month.

Martin said the Institute has contacted Premier Nathan Rees outlining suggestions to get investors back in the property market, adding that the government “has a big job on its hands”.