More than 330,000 jobs in hospitality are at risk of being lost due to the mounting £2.5bn pile of rent debt, which is threatening the future of many operators, according to UKHospitality.

A new survey of its members has found that resolving the rent debt issue is critical to the future health of the sector, with 52% having been given no extension to pay.

As part of its submission to the government’s call for evidence on the problem, the association also highlighted that almost three quarters (73%) were either unable, or don’t know how, to pay their rent arrears. While 40% have not been able to reach a deal with their landlord over rent concessions.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive, UKHospitality, said: “Our survey shows that while a proportion of operators have been able to strike a deal with their landlords on payment of rent debt, for many there have been no concessions and little engagement on the issue.

“The issue of rent debt must be resolved in a way that shares the burden as businesses simply cannot be expected to pay their rent arrears in full.”

Ahead of submitting its formal evidence, UKHospitality wrote to communities & local government secretary of state Robert Jenrick MP, urging the government to adopt its proposals to help tackle the rent debt crisis.

Speaking on MCA’s The Conversation this week, Nicholls said there does seem to be a growing convalescence of interest around ringfencing the historic debt, providing lengthier protections for that to be repaid and also looking at elements of forgiveness of that debt.

“We are pressing the government to come back with a very quick turnaround on that call for evidence and to set out their next steps on how they want to proceed, end of the month/beginning of June, because that moratorium clock is ticking down,” she said.

UKHospitality has called for option three and six to be implemented by government: option three targets existing measures to businesses based on the impact that Covid restrictions have had on their businesses for a limited period of time, while option six calls for a binding non-judicial adjudication between landlords and tenants.