My Property Box is advising tenants who fear losing their job or face a cut in income not to put their homes at risk.

Ben Quaintrell, the founder and managing director of the Darlington-based lettings agent said he has been contacted by several tenants in recent weeks concerned that the current coronavirus pandemic may leave them unable to pay their rent.

He said: “These are worrying times for everyone and the most important thing is that people remain well – so the priority must be food, medicine and ensuring they maintain a safe and comfortable place to live.”

Those contacting the firm – which manages properties across the North East and North Yorkshire – have been concerned at the prospect of losing their job, working shorter hours or being placed on the government’s furlough scheme.

“My message is to remain calm and seek help and advice,” he added. “Talk to your lettings agent or landlord rather than just ignoring the problem.

“Support is available for most tenants who experience a change in circumstances that means they will be in a position to continue meeting their housing costs.

“For those who don’t qualify and genuinely can’t pay their rent, they must speak to their landlord immediately. It may be possible to negotiate a longer tenancy, allowing a tenant to pay off any arrears over a longer period.”

He added that those already in receipt of universal credit will continue to receive the housing element while those experiencing a change in employment circumstances will also normally qualify for universal credit or employment support.

Those tenants who fall sick or who are self-isolating can also qualify for benefits or statutory sick pay, while those in receipt of housing benefit who lose their job should report it to the council immediately and the benefit will normally be increased.

Meanwhile, tenants who are furloughed will still receive 80 per cent of their wages, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, for a maximum of three months – with some employers agreeing to top that level further.

Ben added: “There is a lot of help available for any tenant that finds themselves in this predicament, so my advice is to keep in contact with your letting agent or private landlord to ensure everyone is able to work together and support each other to avoid any unnecessary stress and hardship.”