Image: Rob Noble Image: Rob Noble

The government is facing pressure to freeze rent payments for employees and self-employed workers who cannot work due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

There are growing concerns that the pandemic could lead to a sharp rise in evictions if a lack of work means people cannot pay their rent.

A petition launched by Acorn union with nearly 10,000 signatures is calling for a "rent holiday" and adding pressure on Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.

The Budget laid out £12 billion of emergency support for businesses and workers, but there was no help specifically for renters.

Acorn is calling for an immediate ban on section 21 and section 8 evictions. Section 21 evictions allow a landlord to evict a tenant for no reason with two months notice, while a section 8 allow a landlord to evict a tenant when they have fallen in arrears.

The union is also seeking reassurance from local authorities that they too will not evict attempt to evict anyone who cannot pay their rent as a result of losing work through self-isolation or countrywide lockdown.

Prem Sikka, professor of accounting at the University of Sheffield, described the measures announced in the Budget as "basically nothing" in terms of supporting the least well-off.

He said: “They said they would refund businesses for statutory sick pay of £94.25 a week for 14 days.

“That’s not going to even cover the rent on its own.

“A lot of families are in private rented accommodation. It is often overcrowded, they will find it impossible to self-isolate.

“For council tenants there is an easy solution which is the government pays money for rent over to the council.

“For private renters it’s more difficult – you have a whole variety of tenants from poor to posh. Help needs to be targeted at the poorer end.”

A government spokesperson said: “The government has always been clear that our priority is to put people first, which is why there is support in place to help affected people and minimise any social and economic disruption.

“We’ve announced a range of measures to support people and communities, including a £500m fund for households experiencing financial hardship and ensuring statutory sick pay is available from the first day people take off work.”