More than 800,000 private renters in England and Wales have built rent arrears since coronavirus lockdown measures started, according to estimates published by landlords.
Around one in 14 (7%) private renters have built arrears due to Covid-19, a survey of tenants for the National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) found.
The NRLA said that, if the findings were applied across the sector, this would equate to 840,000 tenants.
It has been calling for a financial package to help renters in arrears, which it said should include Government-guaranteed interest-free hardship loans as well as boosted benefits.
In cash terms, the average arrears levels were between £251 and £500, the NRLA found.
But the findings also indicate that more than 150,000 renters may have built up rental debts of more than £1,000.
Younger tenants are particularly likely to have built debts, with 14% of renters aged 18 to 24 and 10% aged 25 to 34 having built arrears since March.
Self-employed people are also particularly likely to have rental debts, with 17% of these tenants saying they had developed rental debts since March.
Regionally, 11% of renters in the West Midlands had built arrears since March, the largest proportion of any region in England and Wales in the survey. This was followed by London, where 9% of renters had accrued arrears.
Ben Beadle, chief executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, said: “Our research highlights in stark terms the rent debt crisis now engulfing the rental market.
“Whilst the vast majority of landlords have done everything possible to support tenants affected due to Covid-19, expecting them to muddle through without further support is hurting tenants as well as landlords.
“Ministers need to accept that simply banning repossessions does nothing to keep tenants in their homes long term.
“In fact, it will achieve the complete opposite as in kicking the can down the road, it just means larger debts piling up, creating a bigger problem for tenants and also for landlords.
“To sustain tenancies, the Government needs to provide an urgent financial package to get rent debts built due to the pandemic paid off.”
Market research agency Dynata surveyed more than 2,000 private renters in England and Wales between November 17 and December 9 for the NRLA.