A petition calling for a “rent holiday” and to protect tenants from the threat of eviction has gathered more than 2,000 signatures, piling pressure on the housing secretary Robert Jenrick to act.
It comes as the government has been urged to freeze rent for people who can’t work and are struggling to pay their bills during the pandemic.
The Acorn union launched a petition this week urging the government to enact temporary rent freezes for renters suffering with the virus or self-isolating for the period of their self-isolation and recovery.
The group also wants an immediate halt on section 21 and section 8 evictions.
A section 8 eviction is used where a tenant has fallen into arrears; a section 21 can be instigated by a landlord for no reason and often gives the renter just two months to vacate the property.
Acorn also wants a commitment that local authorities will not attempt to evict anyone for not paying their rent because they were off work due to coronavirus infection or self-isolation.
Millions of people across the UK are either self-employed, working on zero-hours contracts or likely to be entitled only to statutory sick pay if they cannot work, meaning there is a risk many will not be able to pay their rent.
The statutory sick pay is currently £94.25
The UK’s sick pay is among the least generous in the industrialised world, amounting to just 20 per cent of the median wage. Across Europe, statutory sick pay averages 65 per cent of median earnings.
The pandemic also puts a spotlight on the UK’s renting rules which give tenants fewer rights than in many other European countries.
At the same time, several high street banks have said that they will offer repayment holidays to people who are unable to pay their mortgage as a result of the pandemic.
Acorn argues that renters should be offered the same leeway.
In the Budget this week, chancellor Rishi Sunak laid out a £12bn package of emergency measures to support businesses and workers through the crisis but it included no help for private renters who make up nearly a fifth of the British population.