Labour has urged Boris Johnson's government to overhaul "threadbare" protections for renters by banning landlords from evicting those who fall into rent arrears due to coronavirus.

John Healey, the shadow housing secretary, called on ministers to include an evictions ban for tenants affected by the virus in emergency legislation due to be tabled this week.

Labour wants to change the law to bar landlords from seizing possession of a rented property if people fall behind on payments due to coronavirus between 1 March and 1 September, with an option to extend the timeframe.

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It would cover more than 8.5 million households, including private renters and those living in council housing or housing association properties, who may face financial hardship if forced to self isolate.

Two thirds of private renters and more than eight in 10 social renters have no savings, according to government figures.

Mr Healey said: “The coronavirus pandemic requires a rapid response from the government to protect families.

“Our current threadbare legal safety net means renters are vulnerable to eviction if they get ill and fall behind on their rent. The fear of being evicted may also mean workers are reluctant stay off work and self-isolate.

“Our emergency legislation would protect renters from eviction and we urge the government to work with us to adopt it and implement it at the earliest opportunity.

“This is an essential first step in public reassurance, giving people confidence they can follow official health advice in responding to coronavirus without putting their home at risk.”

The government is expected to table emergency legislation on Thursday to give ministers extra powers to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

It comes as the number of British cases exceeded 1,500, with the government's emergency Cobra committee considering escalating the UK's response to the spread of the virus.

Mr Johnson was due to start delivering daily televised briefings on Monday, while ministers are considering banning mass gatherings and telling older people to self isolate.

At the weekend, Labour called for a string of emergency financial protections for workers such as mortgage holidays, higher statutory sick pay, and income protection for low-paid and self-employed workers.

The party is concerned that people may be compelled to carry on working for financial reasons, rather than self isolating to prevent the spread of the outbreak.

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