Agents have been accused of harassing tenants to pay rent in full as pressure grows for the payments to be suspended.
Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, trade unions, lawyers and journalists are among signatories who have backed an open letter calling for the Government to suspend rent, cancel arrears and protect renters from eviction.
The letter, organised by activists from the London Renters Union, Acorn and Living Rent makes a number of claims, with one stating: “Tenant unions have collected a wealth of evidence showing that estate agents and landlords are harassing renters to continue to pay rent in full.
“Many renters are fearful of eviction and of getting into unmanageable debt.”
It also claims that the Government has made it clear that landlords can issue eviction notices to renters who enter into rent debt, despite all evictions suspended for three months – ending in June.
The letter said: “Polling shows six in 10 renters have suffered losses to their income and many are left out of government support schemes or do not receive enough to cover rent and other essentials such as food.
“The Conservative 2019 manifesto pledged ‘a better deal for renters’ but current government policy leaves renters to fend for themselves.”
The move follows calls from Labour over the weekend to extend the eviction suspension by six months and to give renters two years to pay off any rent arrears built up during the crisis.
Think tank the New Economics Foundation has gone further, calling for rents to be suspended alongside a mortgage freeze and income protection for landlords.
Meanwhile, the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has hit back at claims from campaign group Generation Rent that the majority of landlords are failing to support tenants needing help during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NRLA said an unreleased survey of more than 4,500 landlords has found that 90% have responded positively to tenants requesting support.
The help given was in the form of a rent reduction or deferral, a rent free period, early release from a tenancy or a refund on service charges included in rents for homes of multiple occupation.
Of the landlords surveyed, 44% had been asked for help by at least one tenant.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA, said: “Whilst many tenants have been able to continue paying their rents in full and on time, in accordance with Government advice, we recognise the strain that many others are under at this difficult time.
“That is why it is good news that, as our research shows, nearly all the landlords approached for help by their tenants are responding positively.
“With no direct support aside from a mortgage deferment, landlords are playing their part to avoid unnecessary anxiety for tenants and our figures show that the vast majority of tenants and landlords have a good relationship with each other.”
LRU, @ACORN_tweets & @Living_Rent have told the government to suspend rent, cancel rent debt & protect renters from eviction
— London Renters Union (@LDNRentersUnion) May 12, 2020