A total of 20 Labour, Lib Dem and Green Party MPs and three Peers have called on the government to take action to end the rent debt crisis caused by the pandemic.

One in three private renters have lost income because of the pandemic and more than 500,000 households in the UK are in rent arrears.

Renters in debt are vulnerable to eviction and homelessness if they do not find alternative accommodation.

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A loophole to the eviction ban introduced by the government on 8 February means that tens thousands of renters who owe more than six months rent are now at imminent risk of eviction.

According to Generation Rent, more than a dozen London Renters Union members are at risk of bailiff eviction in the coming few weeks.

The letter urges the government to ban evictions of people in rent debt and to ensure that the financial package to clear rent debt expected at the budget should be prioritised so that “wealthy landlords do not benefit from public subsidies”.

The signatories, including Stephen Timms, Tim Farron, Caroline Lucas and Diane Abbott, are also urging the government to bring forward the Renters Reform Bill as soon as possible to ensure that landlords cannot use ‘no-fault evictions’ during the pandemic or in its aftermath.

This call to action follows government figures released this week reveal 715,000 private rented households on Universal Credit cannot cover their rent with the payment they receive.

Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said: “Households in arrears face an impossible choice every month: pay the rent, borrow, or go without essentials.

“The government’s inadequate support for private renters is pushing families deeper and deeper into debt, with homelessness and destitution awaiting once the crisis of the pandemic clears.

“Next week Rishi Sunak must act decisively to end the rent debt crisis, and bring peace of mind to private renters who have been hit the hardest by the economic shock.”

Responding to proposals to provide loans and grants to help clear rent debt that have emerged in recent days, Amina Gichinga from London Renters Union added: “Government backed loans would help underwrite landlord profits but would leave renters pressured to take on massive debt repayments they can’t afford.

“If you can’t afford your rent, how can you afford loan repayments?

“There’s nothing in the proposals for grants or loans to pay off rent debt to stop landlords taking the cash and evicting their tenants anyway.

“Before we start talking money, the law should be changed so people in arrears due to pandemic can’t be evicted.”