London -- London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called on the UK government to protect 3 million private renters in the capital during the coronavirus pandemic.
"With millions of low-paid renters in London now facing increased financial uncertainty, we face a ticking timebomb of debt, arrears and widespread evictions," Xinhua news agency quoted Khan as saying.
He said the government must urgently put in place measures that will prevent private landlords from evicting tenants who go into arrears as a result of pandemic.
Khan fears Londoners with low incomes, who are already at a significant disadvantage in London's rental market, could be at a greater risk of being exploited by rogue landlords and real estate agents.
He said tenants in the capital and across the country have been denied the security they need in the place they call home.
"The current crisis has brought these issues into stark relief," he said.
Khan warned failing to bring in more support for renters in London will not only result in widespread financial hardship, but risks increasing the public health crisis, as renters may feel forced to return to work too soon with increasing debt and arrears hanging over their heads.
City Hall said a third of people in London rent privately, more than the number who own their homes with mortgages.
Khan has outlined measures he wants the government to introduce to give legal protection to avert them being thrown out of their homes by property owners.
Caitlin Wilkinson, policy manager at Generation Rent, said: "Many low-income people aren't able to pay the rent, and will be at risk of eviction and homelessness from June. No one should face eviction, debt and homelessness in the midst of a pandemic."
The UK has reported 134,638 coronavirus cases, with 18,100 deaths.