The biggest lobby groups representing retailers and landlords have become embroiled in a row over rent holidays amid the coronavirus crisis. 

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the British Property Federation (BPF) had joined forces to urge the Government to pay up to 50% of commercial rents in a bid to help high street operators and their landlords survive the health crisis. 

Those plans were designed to help pay for the estimated £3bn of rent owed to landlords during the six months to September. 

But as fears grow that Westminster will reject calls to help cover those rent arrears, the BRC has instead called for an extension to the moratorium on landlords taking action against retailers that do not pay rent.

That is currently in place until September, but the BRC wants to prolong the policy to give retailers more security that they will not be evicted from stores. 

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson told The Sunday Times: “In the absence of an alternative solution, the government should extend the moratorium. Without action, the job losses we have seen across the industry over the last month will be the tip of the iceberg.”   

But the BPF said such an extension would come “at the expense” of people whose savings and pensions are invested in commercial property. 

BPF boss Melanie Leech said: “The BRC is calling for an extension of measures that are benefiting large well-capitalised businesses, many of whom grew their online businesses significantly during lockdown, at the expense of the millions of people whose savings and pensions are invested in commercial property.”

The BPF said its members were prepared to support troubled tenants, but warned a blanket extension to the moratorium could create an untenable situation for some landlords and push them towards collapse. 

A government spokeswoman said: “This government recognises the huge challenges faced by commercial tenants and landlords, and we’re working closely with them to ensure they are supported.

“We’ve taken unprecedented action to protect jobs and livelihoods, with around £160bn of support, including rates relief and grants.”