Can I get help to pay rent? What coronavirus means for your mortgage, energy bills and living costs

The coronavirus outbreak has left many people facing a significant loss of income. Some are unable to work due to illness, but many more will struggle to maintain their current earnings as the economy shuts down.

Self-employed people and those on low incomes will be most affected as the Government has advised citizens to remain at home where possible and avoid any public gatherings.

The Government has announced that all homeowners will be able to claim a three-month break from their mortgage payments, should they be unable to pay because of coronavirus.

But can households also delay paying bills until the crisis has passed? Telegraph Money looks at the options.

How will this affect those who are unable to pay their mortgage?

Banks including NatWest and Lloyds were among the first to react to the crisis and offered “payment holidays” to mortgage customers unable to meet their monthly payments. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak then announced that all mortgage lenders would offer respite to homeowners who are struggling to pay. Mr Sunak said that the payment holiday would mean that “people will not have to pay a penny” for their mortgage while they deal with the financial turmoil caused by coronavirus.

Banks must offer these payment breaks to any customers who say they are affected by Covid-19.  No repossession of properties can take place during the outbreak.

What about renters?

There is growing concern about renters who are struggling financially. Experts have said that tenants are disproportionately likely to be on short-term employment contracts, which could be terminated in the wake of the crisis.

At present, tenants have no right to take a break from rent payments. However, to help those in rented accommodation, a £1bn package has been announced by Mr Sunak. This will use the existing benefits system to ensure that tenants are able to meet their monthly rent payments.

This will be delivered through housing benefit and Universal Credit, meaning only those who are claiming benefits can take advantage. 

However, mortgage holidays have also been extended to landlords, meaning they could assist tenants financially as they no longer have to keep up with their monthly buy-to-let repayments.

The Government has already stated that no tenants can be evicted from their home during the crisis, although critics say its plans are flawed.  

The new Government rules state that landlords must give tenants three months’ notice if they want to end a tenancy, and if the tenant does not agree the case would need to be taken to court. However, all court action has been suspended for 90 days, meaning cases would not be able to proceed. If tenants are struggling to pay their rent they are encouraged to claim benefits in the normal way.

Can I get assistance with my energy bills?

The Government has agreed with the energy industry new measures to support “vulnerable people” through the Covid-19 outbreak. The rules will ensure that all vulnerable customers do not have their energy supply cut off.

The four million people with pre-payment meters or pay-as-you-go accounts can also speak to their supplier to ensure their supply is not disrupted. Third parties will be able to top up accounts or customers can be posted pre-loaded cards to ensure their service continues.

All households under financial stress can contact their energy provider to ask for financial support. This may include existing debts being paused. No customers will be disconnected during the outbreak.

What about other household bills?

In the Budget, it was announced that councils would be offered £500m to offer financial support to economically vulnerable individuals and households. Most of this is expected to be used to provide council tax relief to those unable to pay during the coronavirus outbreak.

However, there is unlikely to be much leeway with some bills. Sky Sports and BT Sport initially stated that fans will not be allowed to break their television subscriptions, even though the almost all sporting events have been cancelled or postponed. However, Sky has backed down and allowed customers to pause their subscription until the crisis has passed. BT has offered one month of credit to customers.

Is Government help available?

Those who have suffered a loss in income can claim benefits from the Government. Mark Montaldo, of CEL Solicitors, said that greater support was needed, particularly for homeowners struggling with their outgoings. 

He said: “There’s no doubt that the Government has an extremely difficult job on its hands and the primary concern should clearly be tackling the outbreak and delaying the spread.

“However, we also need to consider who will be most impacted and how these people are supported. We cannot allow people to feel they cannot self-isolate to protect themselves – and others – for fear of losing income and therefore potentially losing their homes.”

Source Article