Your personalised action plan
Thanks for answering those questions. Here are your personalised recommendations for the help you could get.
1. Help paying your mortgage
Get a mortgage payment holiday
If you have a mortgage and you’re not sure you’re going to be able to pay it you can ask for a 3 month mortgage holiday.
How does it work?
In most cases, your bank should let you not pay your mortgage for up to 3 months. Get in touch with your bank and ask them what they can do for you.
Will I have to pay that money back later?
Yes, you won’t be completely let off your payments, but the bank should just add the 3 month total to whatever the remainder of your mortgage is, and then you’ll just pay a little bit more every month when you start making repayments again.
It will mean that you end up paying a bit more in total for your mortgage (as you’ll be paying interest for a bit longer), so don’t automatically take a payment holiday unless you need it
How do I get it?
You’ll need to apply through your bank. Here’s a list of the main banks’ help pages:
2. Help paying your rent
Ask your landlord for help
Get in touch with your landlord (or letting agent if you rent through an agency). Ask the landlord if they can either give you a rent payment holiday, or let you pay a lower rent for a few months. Get whatever you agree in writing.
How do I ask my landlord?
We know it’s not easy to ask for a rent reduction or break. Remember that landlords may be able to get a mortgage payment holiday from their bank too. Here’s a template you can use to ask your landlord.
You can’t get evicted
The government has made a new emergency law, so that renters will not be evicted, even if you are unable to pay their rent. This will mean that your landlord cannot legally evict you for 3 months (this applies between 26 March – 30 September 2020). This will protect you whether you are renting privately, or from a local council or housing association.
So worse case scenario and you really can’t pay, your landlord cannot kick you out for 3 months.
3. Help paying your essential bills
Gas, electricity etc
If you think you’re paying too much for your utilities, use a switching service like USwitch to see if you can get a better deal.
Otherwise, get in touch with energy provider and ask them if they can lower your bills, or switch you to a cheaper tariff. If you’re struggling to pay your existing bill, ask them to put you on a payment plan, so you can pay smaller amounts.
If you don’t already pay monthly, get in touch with your council and switch to monthly direct debit payments.
If you’re struggling to pay anything right now, call your council and ask them to give you a payment holiday for a few months. You won’t be the only person in this situation. Do it as soon as you can, so they don’t try to bill you for the whole amount.
4. Help with food and other living costs
Find a foodbank
There’s no shame in needing some help. There are thousands of people in the same boat right now, so please don’t hesitate getting in touch with your local foodbank if you need to.
If it’s a Trussell Trust foodbank, you’ll need to get a foodbank voucher first. You’ll just need to call your nearest foodbank and they can tell you how to get one (from your doctor, Citizens Advice and others).
Free school meals
If your children normally get free school meals, but aren’t at school at the moment, their school should have sorted out a way to continue providing meals. Either through a catering provider, food parcels or by issuing food vouchers that you can spend in a supermarket to buy food.
Schools can keep doing this even during the Easter holidays. So if yours hasn’t, send them to the government’s website FAQs.
Get a grant for costs
Some local charities provide grants if you’re having financial difficulties. You don’t have to pay them back usually, they’re just a payment to help you pay for food and other living costs.
5. Help paying your debts
Can’t make your minimum payments?
The good news is most banks are offering some form of help (payment holidays, or not charging you if you miss a payment), so find out what’s available to you.
Going over your overdraft?
Be aware that some banks have changed their interest rates on overdrafts, so if you go over your overdraft limit you might get charged 40% interest! That’s about double what you’d pay on a credit card and it could mean you get into debt quickly.
Fortunately, some banks (including Lloyds and HSBC) are giving current accounts an extra £300 – £500 overdraft buffer (interest free). So if you normally live in your overdraft, get in touch with your bank to ask them to extend your overdraft. Just to give you a buffer for the next 6 months, so you don’t get charged interest.
Really worried about debts?
If you’re worried about your debts and you’re not sure what to do, please don’t panic. There’s always something you can do. StepChange debt charity offers free, impartial advice to help you.
6. Cancel things you don’t need
If you’ve pre-paid for any childcare that you’re not using, speak to your childcare provider about getting a refund (or rolling those fees forward to cover when your kids are back in childcare).
If you pay for your travel on a yearly or monthly basis, you might be able to get a refund on your ticket. Just get in touch with your train or bus company.
If you’ve booked a package holiday or flight that has been cancelled, you should receive a full refund. However, we do know that some companies are refusing to issue refunds (and insisting on giving vouchers or asking you to re-book for later). If that’s the case, you can report them to ABTA.
If your travel company is stalling about giving a refund, you can try to claim under your credit card or debit card instead. Just get in touch with your bank and ask them how you do that.
A lot of subscripton services will let you cancel almost immediately, or on 30 days, so if you need some money, cancel anything that you’re not going to need over the next 3 – 6 months. You can always re-subscribe. That includes gyms, entertainment, anything that you pay for on a regular basis.
Just check for any early termination fees first!