Residents hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic have been reminded council help is at hand to ensure they are not kicked out of their homes.
Gravesham council is already preparing for a potential spike of people struggling financially by launching a campaign to remind residents they can receive assistance from the authority.
Homeless charity Porchlight has warned there is a "real danger" of a rise in homeless applications unless tenants are offered greater legal help to restructure rent payments if they have built up arrears.
It comes as the government's ban on evictions for tenants who fall behind on their rent is due to be lifted next month.
Cllr Jenny Wallace (Lab), Gravesham council's cabinet member for housing services, says it is vitally important for anyone in trouble to seek advice from the council before it is too late.
She urged people not to avoid the problem or feel embarrassed to ask for help if they find themselves unable to pay their bills.
Cllr Wallace said: “As the government’s furlough scheme begins to wind down, we have heard worrying announcements about job losses in recent weeks. What is clear is that a lot of people, through no fault of their own, are finding themselves in a financial position they have not been in before.
“I would say to everyone, if you are struggling to pay your bills, if your rent is overdue and you’re not sure where you are going to find the money to pay it, please do not ignore it in the hope the problem will go away – it won’t.
“There is no shame and nothing to be embarrassed about in asking for help and advice, and the sooner you do that the better.”
When the lockdown was introduced, the government placed a stop on private and social housing tenants being evicted if they were unable to pay their rent.
The protection ends on August 23 meaning the courts will be able to issue dates again for eviction hearings booked before the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed.
New eviction cases will begin from October 30.
In the borough, the number of homeless applications during lockdown has remained similar to last year with 623 reported between February and June this year compared to just three more for the same period in 2019.
But homeless charity Porchlight says the government restrictions must be extended after it reported seeing an increase in calls to its helpline for those concerned they will be made homeless.
Spokesman Chris Thomas said: "When this crisis began, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said that no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus would be forced out of their home. We now need him to follow through on that commitment.
"The government eviction ban did help to protect people who would have otherwise been made homeless.
"But it must be extended beyond August 23 and continue until the government clarifies exactly how renters will be protected from eviction.
"We’d like to see legal protections put in place where landlords negotiate payment plans with tenants who need some time to get back on their feet. And although those legal protections do not currently exist, we encourage landlords to do the right thing and start working with their tenants now.
"We're committed to working with councils to continue providing support for those that need it. But without government action, there is a real danger that many people will lose their homes. It’s time for them to act and prevent more homelessness."
"We’d like to see legal protections put in place where landlords negotiate payment plans with tenants"
Cllr Wallace added help was not just for council tenants but also those renting in the private sector.
She said the council could arrange repayment plans to help finance any debts built up and Cllr Wallace also called on private landlords to give their tenants the support they need.
"The council owns a finite number of properties, so we are not saying, ‘Come to us and we will find you a home’, but we can help in a number of ways," she added.
"But unless we know you have a problem we cannot support you. If you are worried about your ability to pay your rent, contact us.
“We make a very real distinction between those who cannot pay, and those who will not pay.
“While we will do everything we can to advise and support those who can’t pay, those who won’t pay and ignore our attempts to contact them should be warned we will use all the powers available to us to reclaim the monies they owe, even if that has to happen after an eviction has taken place.
“There are many people working hard and making sacrifices to ensure they pay their rent every month. We would be failing in our duty to them if we did not take all necessary action to recover outstanding debts from those who have no wish to engage with us.”
Porchlight says it is continuing to work with councils across Kent to provide support to those who need it an access housing benefit and other financial aid as well as emotional support.
Gravesham council tenants needing help and advice should call 01474 337358
Private tenants should call 01474 337759 or visit www.gravesham.gov.uk/housing