MSE News

Coronavirus Finance & Bills Help

Help if you're struggling to pay mortgages & other debts, plus rental help, council tax & more

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live. While the primary concern has always been health, many have struggled - and are still struggling - with financial wellbeing too. Wide-ranging payment holiday help was put in place, but those schemes have now ended. 'Tailored help' is now the order of the day. Our guide tells you how the help now works and how to apply.

Important: If you've a question that isn't covered below or in the other guides, please email it to us (we can't respond individually but we'll try to add answers in these guides).

Looking for other help? This guide has info about how coronavirus might affect your finances. We also have...

Coronavirus travel rights for the latest on holidays and refunds.
Coronavirus employees' help for furlough scheme info.
Coronavirus self-employed & limited co help for SEISS grant info.
Coronavirus universal credit & benefits for benefits updates.
- Coronavirus life in lockdown for the latest on supermarkets, MOTs etc.

In this guide

The entire financial landscape shifted last year due to the coronavirus. We saw the Bank of England undertake economic shock therapy and reduce the UK base rate twice in just over a week back at the start of the pandemic. And we saw lenders scrambling to help customers who'd lost their income, offering payment holidays on loans, mortgages and credit cards, plus widespread help for those overdrawn. 

It was economic shock therapy that was needed. Many people were worried about how they would be able to afford to pay their bills, or just afford to live. But all payment holiday help schemes are now over. Yet, you can talk to your lender or utilities provider and get help that way.

We've split this guide into two main parts:

  • Help with credit products – this covers products such as mortgages, credit cards, loans, overdrafts and car finance, as what's available for them is similar, despite the differences in the way these products work. The help's the same because they're all regulated by one body, the Financial Conduct Authority, which has set guidance for firms on what help they should offer.
  • Help with other household bills – here the help is much more dependent on what the bill is, and what the various regulators involved have asked firms to do. 

We hope this is helpful, but let us know if you think we've missed something. 

What help's available if I'm struggling to pay my mortgage, credit card, loan, insurance or other debts?

Regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has set out a series of rules for lenders to follow to help customers who are struggling to make repayments.

Payment holidays were available until earlier this year, but they've now ended for everyone who was on one. So, if you're in financial difficulties now, you'll be offered tailored support based on your individual circumstances. 

While the support available will mean similar things across a broad range of products, there are a few nuances depending on which product you need help with. Scroll down, or use these links to skip to relevant sections:

  1. Help if you're struggling with mortgage repayments

    If you're struggling to pay your mortgage, or you're coming off a payment holiday and you're still in financial difficulty, then your lender has to offer you 'tailored support'.

    What that means for you will depend on your financial circumstances. How settled your finances are will also have an impact. The following are some of the help measures you may be offered, though lenders are free to offer other solutions if something else works better for your particular circumstances:

    • A (further) payment deferral. This is likely to be a short-term measure only, and may be offered if your circumstances are still changing, and you're not able to commit to a longer-term measure such as changing your mortgage type or length.
    • A (further) period of reduced payments. If you can pay something towards your mortgage, but can't make the full contractual repayment, your lender may agree to you making reduced payments. Again, this measure is likely to be for the short-term only.
    • An extension to your mortgage term. This is essentially like a remortgage, and means you'll pay less each month (but as you're borrowing over a longer period, you'll pay more overall).
    • A change to your mortgage type. For example, this could be switching you to an interest-only mortgage or changing to a product with a different interest rate.

    Tailored support WILL go on your credit report

    The FCA says mortgage lenders SHOULD report any tailored help they provide to credit reference agencies. Your lender should let you know if the support it's offering you will have an impact on your credit report (see how to check your credit reports for free).

    How to apply for tailored support

    Make sure you call your lender to let it know about your financial situation - don't just miss payments without speaking to it. Head to your lender's website and find the section which details its coronavirus help. You should be able to find the correct contact details there. Lenders are currently very busy, so it's best to do this as soon as possible before your next payment. 

    Take the time to understand the implications of any help you're offered - ask what it'll mean for your payments in future, and whether the help will go on your credit report. 

    Quick questions

    My lender's offered a (further) payment deferral. How much will this cost?

    If your lender offers you a (further) payment holiday, it's likely you WILL still be charged interest for the time you're not making payments. But you won't have to pay it back immediately – it'll be added on to the total cost of your mortgage and factored into repayments when you start making them again.

    But how much you'll have to pay after the mortgage holiday will vary depending on how your bank wants you to repay those missed payments. It varies between banks – though generally there are three options:

    • Make up for the 'lost' payments by increasing your future monthly mortgage payments.
    • Lengthen your mortgage term, eg, if you've 15 years left now, you'd have 15 years and however many months left after the holiday and your payments would stay the same.
    • Repay the accrued interest as a lump sum, then resume repayments at the same level as before the holiday.

    Your lender will typically decide what options are available to you. 

    To get a rough idea of how much your monthly payments could increase by after taking a mortgage payment holiday, use our Mortgage Holiday Calculator.  

    Is my lender allowed to repossess my home?

    Yes, though it need to go through the usual court processes to be able to do so.  

    What if I have an interest-only mortgage?

    If you have an interest-only mortgage, you can also access the tailored help described above. 

    In addition, if your maturity date for repayment of the capital part of your mortgage falls between 30 March 2020 and 31 October 2021, you'll be able to defer repaying the capital until 31 October 2021. However, to qualify for this deferral, you must continue to stay up to date with payments (excepting any periods when you were on an agreed payment holiday). 

    What about buy-to-let mortgages?

    Although regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) doesn't cover buy-to-let lending, it and the Treasury have said that they expect buy-to-let lenders to offer "voluntarily" the same forbearance on buy-to-let mortgages as they would have to on regulated residential mortgages.

    What if I can't pay any of my debts?

    If you've multiple debts you're behind on paying, the lender should refer you to help, and potentially free debt advice charities which will be able to help you further.

    Make sure to let the lender know that its repayment isn't the only one you're struggling with.

    It's also worth checking out our Debt Help guide - you can refer yourself for help if you don't want to wait for your lender to do it. 

  2. Help if you're struggling with credit card debt or loan repayments

    If it's the first time you're getting in to difficulty with your cards or loans since the start of the pandemic, or you've recently come off a payment holiday and you're still struggling, then your lender will offer you 'tailored support measures'.

    The measures below also apply to store cards, catalogue credit, guarantor loans, logbook loans, credit union loans, home-collected credit and community development finance institution loans.

    What 'tailored support' means for you will depend on your financial circumstances. How settled your finances are will also have an impact. The following are some of the help measures you may be offered, though lenders are free to offer other solutions if something else works better for your particular circumstances:

    • A (further) payment deferral. This is likely to be a short-term measure only, and may be offered if your circumstances are still changing, and you're not able to commit to a longer-term measure such as setting up a repayment plan.

    • A (further) period of reduced payments. If you can pay something towards your card debt but can't make the full minimum contractual repayment, your lender may agree to you making reduced payments. Again, this measure is likely to be short-term only.

    • Waiving or reducing interest. If you can't meet your payments, the lender needs to make sure the amount you owe isn't rising out of control, so it may need to cut or waive the interest it's charging you. 

    • Agreeing a repayment plan. This is where your lender works with you to set up a plan that doesn't meet contractual repayments, but allows you to pay off the debt in a reasonable amount of time. 

    • Refinancing your credit agreement. This might mean, for example if you have a credit card, you convert the debt to a loan with a lower rate of interest and agree to pay set monthly installments over a longer period. This will only be offered where the lender offers personal loans as well as credit cards, and where it's likely to be affordable, and your finances are settled enough to commit to a new agreement. 

    Tailored support WILL go on your credit report

    The FCA says lenders SHOULD report any forbearance (such as extra payment deferrals or reduced payments) to credit reference agencies. Lenders will need to let you know if the support they're offering you would have an impact on your credit report (see how to check your credit reports for free). 

    How to apply for tailored support

    Head to your lender's website and find the section which details its coronavirus help. You should be able to find the correct contact details there. Lenders are currently very busy, so it's best to do this as soon as possible before your next payment if you know you won't be able to make that payment. 

    Take the time to understand the implications of any help you're offered - ask what it'll mean for your payments in future, and whether the help will go on your credit report.

    Help if you've temporarily got a lower income due to Covid & several debts to pay off

    Stepchange has set up a Covid Payment Plan scheme to help you deal with creditors and help pay your debts off. It'll give you time and space to get back on your feet while still paying something towards your debts. You can read more details and check if it's right for you on the Stepchange website

    Quick questions

    What if I've been asked to pay my card off under 'persistent debt' rules?

    Hundreds of thousands of credit card borrowers have been getting letters and emails – known as 'persistent debt notices' – asking them to pay off more of their credit card or face losing it.

    That's because under new rules from the financial regulator, if someone has been in persistent debt for 36+ months, usually only paying the minimum each month, lenders must offer them a reasonable way to repay their balance. If a customer ignores or refuses the offer of an affordable repayment plan, the lender must suspend or cancel their card.

    See our Persistent Debt guide for full help, including whether you can transfer your debt to 0%.  

    What if I'm on a 0% deal – will I lose it if I ask for help?

    It will depend - it's certainly something to ask your lender about. Make it a point of negotiation - after all, you'll be in a better position to pay the debt down if you're not paying interest.

    What if I can't pay any of my debts?

    If you've multiple debts you're behind on paying, the lender should refer you to help, and potentially free debt advice charities which will be able to help you further.

    Make sure to let the lender know that its repayment isn't the only one you're struggling with.

    It's also worth checking out our Debt Help guide - you can refer yourself for help if you don't want to wait for your lender to do it. 

    If I get help on my guarantor loan, can my lender ask the guarantor to pay?

    No. If you have a guarantor loan and you make an agreement with the lender for a different payment plan, then you both need to abide by that agreement. However, if the guarantor lender doesn't agree to what you're proposing, it can ask your guarantor to begin making payments.

    You could check if your guarantor loan was originally mis-sold, but this is unlikely if it was affordable when you took it out, but it's become unaffordable due to a change in circumstances stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. 

  3. Help if you're struggling to pay your rent-to-own, pawnbroker or buy now, pay later loan

    Lenders in these three areas must also give you tailored support if you have payment difficulties, or if you're coming off a payment holiday and you're still struggling. Let's first define what falls under these three categories:

    • Buy now, pay later. Buy now, pay later covers in-store credit or catalogue credit where you get an interest-free or low-interest period at the start, often for a year, where you may not need to make any payments. After the initial period, you'll need to make monthly payments, and you may start being charged interest at this point. Buy-now-pay-later firms include Hitachi Capital and Consumer Credit Solutions (though not most Klarna, Laybuy or Clearpay deals).

    • Rent-to-own. Rent-to-own stores, such as PerfectHome and the in-administration BrightHouse, let you take white goods and other household appliances home in return for weekly or monthly payments to 'rent' the item. Usually you'll be able to buy the item if you want to, during the contract or at the end, though you can return it at the end if you no longer need it or want to upgrade.

    • Pawnbrokers. This is where you 'pawn' an item - ie you sell it to the pawnbroker and they give you cash in return. However, you'll also get a redemption period, where you can buy the item back for an agreed price. If you don't buy the item back in that time period, the pawnbroker will be able to sell it to anyone. 

    If you're struggling with rent-to-own, pawnbroker or buy now, pay later debts, your lender will need to provide tailored help. As it'll be based on your circumstances, there are no set solutions. But, you may be offered one or more of the bits of help below:

    • A (further) payment deferral. This is likely to be a short-term measure only, and may be offered if your circumstances are still changing, and you're not able to commit to a longer-term measure such as setting up a repayment plan.
    • A (further) period of reduced payments. If you can pay something towards your loan but can't make the full contractual repayment, your lender may agree to you making reduced payments. Again, this measure is likely to be short-term only.
    • Waiving or reducing interest. If you can't meet your payments, the lender needs to make sure the amount you owe isn't rising out of control, so it may need to cut or waive the interest it's charging you. 
    • Agreeing a repayment plan. This is where your lender works with you to set up a plan that doesn't meet contractual repayments, but allows you to pay off the debt in a reasonable amount of time. 
    • Refinancing your credit agreement. This might mean, for example if you have a loan, that you agree to pay it back over a longer period, thus reducing the monthly payment you need to make (but as you're borrowing over a longer period, you'll pay more overall). This will only be offered where it's likely to be affordable, and your finances are settled enough to commit to a new agreement. 

    Tailored support WILL go on your credit report

    The FCA says lenders SHOULD report any forbearance (such as extra payment deferrals or reduced payments) to credit reference agencies. Lenders will need to let you know if the support they're offering you would have an impact on your credit report (see how to check your credit reports for free). 

    How to apply for tailored support

    Head to your lender's website and find the section which details its coronavirus help. You should be able to find the correct contact details there. Lenders are currently very busy, so it's best to do this as soon as possible before your next payment if you know you won't be able to make that payment. 

    Take the time to understand the implications of any help you're offered - ask what it'll mean for your payments in future, and whether the help will go on your credit report.

    Quick questions

    Can my pawnbroker sell my goods if I can't pay to get them back?

    Yes. Your pawnbroker is free to sell goods that are out of their redemption period if you're on its 'tailored help' measures. However, this should be a last resort when all other attempts to find a reasonable solution have failed.

    Can the shop repossess my rent-to-own goods?

    Yes, your provider can repossess the goods if you can't make payments, assuming you're on 'tailored support' measures. However, this should be a last resort when all other attempts to find a reasonable solution have failed. 

    What if I can't pay any of my debts?

    If you've multiple debts you're behind on paying, the lender should refer you to help, and potentially free debt advice charities which will be able to help you further.

    Make sure to let the lender know that its repayment isn't the only one you're struggling with.

    It's also worth checking out our Debt Help guide - you can refer yourself for help if you don't want to wait for your lender to do it. 

  4. Help if you're struggling with payday loans

    Just like the other debts in this list, your payday lender still needs to help you if you're struggling (or if you're coming off a payment holiday). This could include:

    • The lender accepting token payments, eg £1, until you can resume normal repayments
    • Agreeing a repayment plan so the debt's paid off over several months
    • Waiving or lowering interest rate charges

    So, if you can't pay your payday loan - whether it's a new problem or a continuation of previous difficulties - talk to your lender to see which of the solutions works best for you and for it - though do be aware that any help you get WILL be reported on your credit report, and may affect your ability to get credit in the future. 

    For more information, have a read of our payday loans guide, which has help on steps you can take to get out of payday loan debt. It's also worth checking if your payday loan was mis-sold and whether you can reclaim.

  5. Help if you're struggling with car finance payments

    If you'r struggling with car, van or motorbike finance payments (or you're coming off an agreed payment holiday and still struggling), your lender will need to provide tailored help. As it'll be based on your circumstances, there are no set solutions. But, you may be offered one or more of the bits of help below:
     
    • A (further) payment deferral. This is likely to be a short-term measure only, and may be offered if your circumstances are still changing, and you're not able to commit to a longer-term measure such as setting up a repayment plan, or refinancing your car loan.

    • A (further) period of reduced payments. If you can pay something towards your agreed payment on your car finance, but can't make the full contractual repayment, your lender may agree to you making reduced payments. Again, this measure is likely to be short term.

    • Waiving or reducing interest. If you can't meet your payments on your car finance, the lender needs to make sure the amount you owe isn't rising out of control, so it may need to cut or waive interest. 

    • Agreeing a repayment plan. This is where your lender works with you to set up a plan that doesn't meet contractual repayments, but allows you to pay off the debt in a reasonable amount of time. 

    • Refinancing your car finance deal. This essentially means entering into a new agreement for the amount you owe, lowering the monthly payment but paying off the debt over a longer term.

      It's complicated in some car finance deals, especially personal contract purchase deals, as if you have the car for a longer period, the 'guaranteed future value' (the balloon payment at the end) will change, as the car will be older. If this is the case, be careful and make sure the lender explains the implications of a new deal to you.

      This will only be offered where it's likely to be affordable, and your finances are settled enough to commit to a new agreement. 

    Tailored support WILL go on your credit report

    The FCA says car finance lenders SHOULD report the tailored help they give you to credit reference agencies. Your lender should let you know if the support it's offering you would have an impact on your credit report (see how to check your credit reports for free).

    How to apply for tailored help

    Head to your car finance lender's website and find the section which details its coronavirus help. You should be able to find the correct contact details there. Lenders are currently very busy, so it's best to do this as soon as possible before your next payment if you know you won't be able to make that payment. 

    Take the time to understand the implications of any help you're offered - ask what it'll mean for your payments in future, and whether the help will go on your credit report.

    Help if you've temporarily got a lower income due to Covid & several debts to pay off

    Stepchange has set up a Covid Payment Plan scheme to help you deal with creditors and help pay your debts off. It'll give you time and space to get back on your feet while still paying something towards your debts. You can read more details and check if it's right for you on the Stepchange website

    Quick questions

    Is my lender allowed to repossess my car if I'm getting tailored help?

    Yes, but only after trying everything it can to work with you to find a solution. Even then, the lender still has to go through all the normal legal processes it needs to repossess your car. 

    However, if the arrears have only built up as a result of the payment holidays you've taken, and you've a realistic plan to pay those arrears off, then the lender shouldn't repossess your car. If this is the case, make it clear to your lender if it tries to talk to you about any potential repossession.

    What if I can't afford the balloon payment but want to keep the car?

    If you're not able to pay their balloon payment at the end of the deal but want to keep your vehicle, the lender will be expected to work with you to find a solution.

    Can I 'voluntarily terminate' my car finance agreement?

    A voluntary termination (VT) is a little-known clause in the Consumer Credit Act, which allows you to get out of a hire purchase deal early. You can sometimes also get out of a personal contract purchase (PCP) agreement early, though you can't if you're leasing the car.

    A VT means that provided you've repaid at least half the total amount of finance on your contract, you can terminate the agreement and return the car to the finance company. This is a handy clause in a car finance contract if you find:

    • You no longer need the car.
    • You want to cut costs.
    • You can't afford repayments.
    • You can get a similar car for a lower cost than you would by making the remaining payments.

    If you decide to do this, the car should be in good condition when you hand it back. If not, you'll have to pay for any outstanding repair work that needs doing.

    If you're not yet halfway through the payments, you'll need to pay the amount outstanding to reach halfway before you can get out of the agreement. This is especially relevant in PCP deals, where the balloon payment is factored into the total amount of finance in the contract, so you may be a long way from reaching the halfway point if you have a PCP deal. 

    Important: If you decide to end the agreement early, make sure to get everything in writing and keep a copy so nobody can claim you have defaulted on your payments.

    What if I can't pay any of my debts?

    If you've multiple debts you're behind on paying, the lender should refer you to help, and potentially free debt advice charities which will be able to help you further.

    Make sure to let the lender know that its repayment isn't the only one you're struggling with.

    It's also worth checking out our Debt Help guide - you can refer yourself for help if you don't want to wait for your lender to do it. 

  6. Paying overdraft interest? You can get tailored support, which could include waiving interest or transferring the debt to a loan

    During the initial wave of the pandemic, temporary rules were put in place by regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to help those struggling with overdraft costs. This included lowering interest rates and/or offering up-to-£500 interest-free for three months.

    Since October, though, the regulator said banks should provide tailored support... 

    This could include...

    • Reducing or waiving overdraft interest.
    • Transferring the overdraft debt to a cheaper credit product, eg, a personal loan (usually the overdraft will be closed if you accept this solution so you don't end up running the overdraft debt back up).
    • Agreeing to reduce the overdraft limit in stages as you pay the balance off.
    Will overdraft help be shown on my credit report?

    The fact you're using your overdraft and how much you owe will be shown on your credit report. However, if the bank agrees to reduce or waive interest, for example, this wouldn't be shown on your credit report. 

    The only difference might come if you accept a loan to pay the overdraft off. In this case, the loan would be added as a new credit product in the loans section of your report and your bank account would then show with a balance of zero on your credit report as you're not borrowing anything - and this will be the case even if you're in credit. To check what's showing on your report, see how to check your credit reports for free

    For further help and information, see our Cut overdraft costs guide, which includes info on how to get your overdraft to 0%. 

    Quick questions

    What if I don't already have an overdraft?

    The rules above apply to existing authorised overdrafts. If you have a bank account without an overdraft, you can apply for one in the normal way (unless it's a basic bank account). However, you would be subject to a credit check – and while banks are being told to do everything they can to help customers suffering a temporary loss in income, they still have an obligation to lend responsibly, so it's not certain you'll get an overdraft if you apply.

    If you do get accepted for an overdraft, then you'll open it on the terms available to all other customers. If that includes tailored help if you're struggling due to coronavirus, then you'll get this help too.

  7. Help if you're struggling to pay insurance premiums

    If you're struggling to pay your insurance premiums because your income's been affected by coronavirus, your insurer should help you. It should first review your policy to make sure it's suitable and as cheap as it can be. If that doesn't help, then it should work with you on a repayment plan that suits you both.

    The measures below cover all types of general and protection insurance, which means it covers car, van and motorbike, home, travel, income protection, life and private medical insurance, as well as boiler cover and critical illness cover, to name just a few. It also covers premium credit providers – these are the companies that give you a 'loan' meaning you can pay monthly premiums rather than annual.

    While any help you get will be based on your individual circumstances, measures your insurer might offer could include:

    • Reviewing your policy. This is the first port of call, and insurers would look at whether you can drop extras you may not be using, such as key cover on car insurance. Insurers could also look at whether a cheaper policy with lower cover levels may be suitable. 

    • A (further) payment deferral. This is likely to be a short-term measure only, and may be offered if your circumstances are still changing, and you're not able to commit to a longer-term measure such as setting up a repayment plan.

    • A (further) period of reduced payments. If you can pay something but can't make the full contractual repayment, your insurer or premium credit lender may agree to you making reduced payments. Again, this is likely to be short-term only.

    • Waiving or reducing interest. If you can't meet your payments, the insurer or lender needs to make sure the amount you owe isn't rising out of control, so it may need to cut or waive the interest it's charging you. 

    • Agreeing a repayment plan. This is where your insurer or lender works with you to set up a plan that doesn't meet contractual repayments, but allows you to pay off the debt in a reasonable amount of time. 

    Tailored support WILL go on your credit report

    The FCA says insurers and lenders SHOULD report any forbearance (such as extra payment deferrals or reduced payments) to credit reference agencies. Lenders will need to let you know if the support they're offering you would have an impact on your credit report. 

    Quick coronavirus and insurance questions

    Do I need to tell my insurer if I'm working from home?

    The Association of British Insurers has said there's no need to change or update your cover if you're now working from home and, crucially, you don't need to call and tell your insurer.  

    This applies if you're doing clerical work – generally defined as working on a computer and making phone calls.

    However, it won't cover any claims arising from visitors to your home who are there as part of your work. It also won't cover any stock you might have brought home – for example, if you've a mail order business that you're now operating from home. If that's the case, call and tell your insurer as you may need to pay a premium to have the stock covered, or you may need to get an extension to your usual business insurance. 

    For more information on the help available for home insurance customers, plus general cost-cutting tips, see our Cheap Home Insurance guide. 

    Do I need to tell my insurer if I've lost my job?

    If major things change, such as losing your job (no need if you're on furlough), or if you have new convictions or medical issues, you should notify your insurers. See What must I tell my insurer mid-term?

    Can I save on car insurance cover if I'm now driving a lot less?

    Being in full lockdown meant that many were using their vehicles much less, if at all. But even though restrictions have now ended, some may still not be driving as much as usual. If that's you, there are two main ways you could possibly save, and which you look at will depend on how much you're using your vehicle.
     

    • Not using your car at all? Declare it 'off-road' to save on tax and insurance. As you now need insurance when you own a car, it's something you're paying for that you may not be using.

      But there's an exception to needing to pay. If it's kept on private land (eg, garage/drive) you can declare it off-road via a Sorn (statutory off-road notification), which cancels your vehicle tax (and may net you a refund). You can then cancel your insurance, though do note your car won't be covered for damage, fire or theft.

      This may be too much effort for a small saving, but you may decide it's worth it if you're not going to use your car long-term.

      For more information, see how to Sorn.

    • Still using your car, but much less? See if you can change your policy to save. Insurance is about risk, so the more chance they think you have of claiming, the more they charge. There are three changes that may save you money:

      a) Substantially reducing estimated annual mileage
      b) Telling your provider you're no longer driving for work or commuting
      c) Removing young or risky extra drivers

      As insurance pricing is personal, you may not save from these, especially if your insurer charges an admin fee to change your details mid-policy. We've more information in Should I reduce my car insurance cover?

    Will my life insurance or critical illness cover pay out if I get coronavirus?

    Whether or not you're protected for claims relating to coronavirus depends on what kind of insurance you have:

    • Life insurance and income protection insurance SHOULD cover coronavirus. If you have a life insurance or income protection policy in place you should be covered for any claims relating to coronavirus. This is because these policies are usually based on declaring any existing conditions – but if you have an existing policy, you couldn't have declared coronavirus as a condition before now so that won't be an issue.

      It is still possible to take out a new policy to protect yourself. If you are looking at doing so – either life insurance or income protection – it is likely you'll be asked additional questions, such as whether you've already tested positive for Covid-19, have had symptoms or have been told to self-isolate. If you have, an exclusion may be applied.

    • Critical illness cover WON'T apply to coronavirus. If you have critical illness cover, you will not be covered for Covid-19 claims, as it isn't considered a critical illness. If, however, you developed a serious illness/condition as a result of coronavirus, that could be considered as a possible claim.

    • Getting accident, sickness and unemployment cover is now tricky. For those seeking accident and sickness cover, it is still possible to get it but many insurers are no longer offering unemployment cover as an option, or no longer accepting new applications, or imposing additional exclusions (ie, claims may not be made unless you have been unemployed for at least a couple of months from the start date of your policy).

    For full help on the ins and outs of this kind of cover, see our Life Insurance guide.

Help if you're struggling to pay rent

Many rules have been changed to support those struggling to pay rent due to the coronavirus outbreak. No social renter should be evicted due to coronavirus, local government and housing associations have confirmed, and although private renters can still face eviction, extended notice periods have been put into place. Here's the key info if you're in financial difficulty... 

  • Speak to your landlord as soon as possible to let them know your situation and work out a repayment plan. 

    Many landlords just have one extra property, often inherited and mortgage-free, and use the income from rent for living expenses. In the current crisis, these landlords aren't eligible for any Government help (not even universal credit). So if your landlord's in this position, they may be struggling too.

    When you talk to your landlord, be sensitive to their circumstances, and try to find a solution that suits you both.

  • Check you're receiving all financial help you're entitled to, including universal credit. 

    The Government increased the housing allowance part of universal credit so that the local housing allowance would cover at least 30% of the lowest rents in your area, which may help you. See our Coronavirus Universal Credit & Benefits guide for more.

    Tenants in Wales who are struggling to pay their rent arrears may also qualify for a new 1% APR loan over one to five years from the Welsh Government. The loan's paid directly to the landlord to cover the arrears, then you repay the government. You'll need to apply through a credit union – more information on the scheme, who's eligible and how to apply is on the Gov.wales website.

    A similar scheme is available in Scotland, with the Tenant Hardship Loan Fund providing 0% loans to cover a maximum of nine months' rent, where tenants have fallen behind on payments due to coronavirus since 1 January 2020. This is then repaid over five years, with the first payment taken after six months. Applications can be made online via the above link. 

    If you rent privately in London, it's worth using the Mayor of London's property licensing checker to see if you're owed a refund of up to 12 month's rent, which could be due if your landlord doesn't have the right documentation. You'll still need to put in some legwork but it could be worth £1,000s. See our news story for full information.

Renters must get up to six months' notice to leave – but can be taken to court and evicted if it's exceeded 

There's a strict process landlords need to follow to evict you. The first part is to serve you notice of eviction. But the notice they need to give you varies:

  • In England they usually need to give you four months' notice (unless you owe more than four months of rent, in which case the notice period's just four weeks).
  • In Wales and Scotland they usually need to give you six months' notice
  • In Northern Ireland they usually need to give you 12 weeks' notice.

If you've not left by the time the notice period is up, your landlord can then choose to start court proceedings (or tribunal proceedings in Scotland) to evict you. Yet rules in England and Wales also require landlords to provide information about how tenants have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Without this, the case can be rearranged for a later date.  

If the court agrees you can be evicted, then your landlord can appoint bailiffs who can gain entry to the property to take possession of it, or to remove your belongings and change the locks. You could also be expected to pay towards your landlord's legal fees. However, it can take weeks or months for the eviction to happen after the court allows it.

Here's what's happening with evictions in each UK nation, in terms of notice periods, when court eviction hearings are taking place and if a bailiff can force you out:

Nation Current notice landlords need to give The notice period has passed & you've not left. Are courts hearing eviction cases? The court has issued an eviction notice, can I be evicted?
England Four months (i) Yes Yes
Wales Six months (ii) Yes Yes
Scotland Six months (iii) Yes Yes, though bailiffs are banned from evicting anyone in an area with level 3 or level 4 restrictions before 30 Sep (except for anti-social cases). 
Northern Ireland 12 weeks if given before 30 September 2021 Yes Yes

(i) Four weeks required if given for anti-social behaviour, or if you're more than four months behind on rent. (ii) Three months' notice needed if given for anti-social behaviour. Can be shorter if you're more than six months behind on rent. (iii) 28 days' notice needed if given for anti-social behaviour. 

For more rental help, see our 50+ top tips for renters

What should I do if my landlord's trying to evict me?

It's worth saying that you need to be given at least the notice required in your country for you to leave. If you've not left by the time this ends, your landlord can then apply to the court or tribunal for a hearing date. Even if they do this, you won't have to leave your property immediately – it's still a process and, from hearing until actual eviction (if granted), can take weeks or even months.

You also can't be evicted if you or someone else in the home has coronavirus or has been told to self-isolate.

Each case is different, so if your landlord's trying to evict you, try:

All of these sites have lots of helpful information on what to do next, plus many have advisers who can speak with you about your rights and potentially even help in court.

What help's available if I'm struggling to pay for energy, broadband, water or other bills?

If your income's been affected by coronavirus, then it's likely you could struggle to pay bills as well as making repayments on your debts. We've rounded up the help available on the most common household bills below. Scroll down, or see the specific help available for:

  1. Help if you're struggling to pay gas & electric, incl prepaid meters

    Energy suppliers are offering help to those who may struggle to pay bills as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – both prepay and credit meter customers. 

    On a credit meter?

    All energy suppliers have agreed to provide support to anyone in financial distress, which can include debt repayments and bill payments being reassessed, reduced or paused.

    Exactly what help suppliers will offer will depend on your individual circumstances. Click the link below to see what help your supplier's offering and how to contact it. 

    Plus, do a whole of market comparison via our Cheap Energy Club to see if you can get cheaper bills by switching – many can save £100/year.

    On a prepay meter?

    Regulator Ofgem has written to all suppliers, saying it expects them to "take proactive measures to support prepayment meter customers, including customers in vulnerable circumstances".

    Ultimately, suppliers will deal with issues on a case-by-case basis, so the best thing you can do if you have to self-isolate or are struggling to pay your bill due to coronavirus is to contact your provider as soon as you can. Click the link below to find out what help your supplier's offering and how to contact it.

    I'm on a credit meter - what's my supplier doing to help?

    On a credit meter? What firms are offering some customers

    Supplier Delaying bill due dates? Removing late payment charges? Allowing repayment over longer periods? Reassessing monthly payments? Offering alternative ways to pay? How to get help (1)
    British Gas Yes Yes No No No See FAQs or call 0333 202 9802
    EDF Yes No Yes No Yes See FAQs or call 0333 200 5100
    E.on Yes No No Yes No See its advice or call 0345 052 0000
    Npower Yes No Yes No Yes See FAQs or call 0800 073 3000
    Scottish Power Yes No Yes No Yes See FAQs or call 0800 027 0072
    SSE Hasn't committed to any specific measures, but will offer help on a case-by-case basis. See FAQs or call 0345 070 7373
         
    Bulb No No Yes No Yes See its advice or call 0300 303 0635
    Co-op Energy (2) Hasn't committed to any specific measures, but will offer help on a case-by-case basis. See its statement or call 0808 164 1088
    Octopus Energy  Hasn't committed to any specific measures, but will offer help on a case-by-case basis. See its statement or call 0808 164 1088
    Ovo Energy No Yes Yes Yes No See FAQs or call 0330 303 5063
    Shell Energy Yes No Yes No No See its advice or call 0330 094 5800
    Small suppliers While some have committed to measures such as not increasing direct debits or offering more flexible payments, most suppliers haven't committed to any specific measures, but will offer help on a case-by-case basis. See supplier contact details 
    (1) Suppliers are urging you to contact them via email or live chat first, where possible, with any non-urgent queries. (2) Co-op Energy's response is handled by Octopus Energy, which now runs the brand. 

    I'm on a prepay meter - what's my supplier doing to help?

    Supplier What can it do? How to get help (1)
    British Gas

    Hasn't yet committed to sending out top-up cards or keys loaded with credit.

     

    If you're in isolation and you think you'll use up your balance and emergency credit, contact British Gas and it has said it'll find a solution on a case-by-case basis. See its FAQs.

    Call 0333 202 9802
    EDF

    EDF says it can post top-up cards or keys loaded with credit to your home.

     

    EDF has advised people who self-isolate to ask friends and family to help them top up. Where this is not possible, it says it can deliver 'preloaded' cards and keys if you need to self-isolate – this balance will be collected back at a "suitable rate" later. See its FAQs.

    Call 0333 200 5100
    E.on

    E.on says it can post top-up cards or keys loaded with credit to your home or send an engineer to top up your meter.

     

    It says if your electricity meter falls below 50p of emergency credit, or you're off supply for gas, it can send a card or key in the post, or send an engineer to top up for you. However, it advises to top up a little extra or asking a trusted person to help to prepare for self-isolation. See its FAQs.

    Call 0345 052 0000
    Npower

    Hasn't yet committed to sending out top-up cards or keys loaded with credit.

     

    Npower has said it is looking at increasing emergency credit to £45 to help those self-isolating. It also advises topping up more than usual in advance if you can or asking a trusted person to help. See its FAQs.

    Call 0800 073 3000
    Scottish Power 

    We've yet to hear back from Scottish Power – however, it has published guidance on its website

     

    Scottish Power has advised people who need to self-isolate to ask a friend, neighbour or family member to top up for them, and to add more credit to their meter than normal. 

    Call 0800 027 0072

    SSE  SSE says it can post top-up cards or keys loaded with credit to your home.

    It's encouraging customers to keep at least 14 days' worth of credit on their meter, and says it can help by reducing any debt repayments people are making through the meter.  See its FAQs
    Call 0345 026 2658
    Ovo (2)

    Hasn't committed to sending out top-up cards or keys loaded with credit.

     

    Ovo is advising people to ask friends, family or neighbours to top up for them – it urges them to disinfect their card before handing it to anyone else. It's also set up a dedicated team to help those in danger of losing supply. See its FAQs

    Call 0330 102 7517
    Bulb 

    Bulb says it can post top-up cards or keys loaded with credit to your home.

     

    Bulb has advised people who self-isolate to ask friends and family to help them top up. Where this is not possible, it says you can pay online and a preloaded card will be delivered. See its advice.

    Call 0300 303 0635
    Robin Hood Energy (3)

    Hasn't yet committed to sending out top-up cards or keys loaded with credit.

     

    It's advising customers to top up meters more than usual, if they are able to, and will always provide an "emergency support function" for prepay users. It also told us it's working up a number of plans to help anyone struggling to pay or top up. See its FAQs

    Call 0800 030 4567
    Co-op Energy  Co-op is now run by Octopus Energy, which has told us it is working through its guidance and will update us. Call 0800 093 7547
    E Energy We've yet to hear back from E Energy. Call 0333 103 9575
    Green Network Energy Green Network Energy has told us it is currently working through its guidance to customers and will update us. Call 0800 520 0202
    Green Star Energy 

    Green Star Energy (which is now part of Shell Energy) says it can post top-up cards or keys loaded with credit to your home.

     

    It has advised people who self-isolate to ask friends and family to help them top up. Where this is not possible, it can arrange for a preloaded card to be delivered to you. See its FAQs.

    Call 0800 012 4510
    Omni Energy Omni Energy says it can post top-up cards or keys loaded with credit to your home.

    It advises those who can top up in advance and build up credit on the meter to do so, or to ask a family member or friend to take their key or card to the shop for them. It also says it has emergency credit to maintain supply. 
    Call 0113 457 3219
    Utility Warehouse

    Hasn't yet committed to sending out top-up cards or keys loaded with credit.

     

    Utility Warehouse has advised its customers to top up a bit extra – it recommends having at least two weeks' energy on your meter. It also suggests identifying a trusted third-party who can pick up your top-up card or key and take it to a shop in case you're unable to leave your home. 

     

    Call 0333 777 3247 
    Utilita

    Hasn't yet committed to sending out top-up cards or keys loaded with credit.

     

    However, Utilita's main focus is smart prepayment, which allows people to top up remotely. If you've a non-smart meter, it advises to top up more than usual or ask a friend or family member to help. It also says it has called all its customers over the age of 80 and advised them of how to top up. 

    Call 0345 207 2000
    (1) Suppliers are urging you to contact them via email or live chat first, where possible, with any non-urgent queries. (2) Ovo prepayment customers are supplied under the brand 'Boost'. (3) Advice also covers anyone supplied by Angelic Energy, Beam Energy, Citizen Energy, Ebico, Fosse Energy, Great North Energy, The Leccy, Ram Energy, Southend Energy, White Rose Energy and Your Energy Sussex.

    Need more help? Join the Priority Services Register

    Vulnerable customers (see who counts below) can also sign up to the Priority Services Register with their supplier or network operator. If you're on the register, you'll be eligible for certain free services, including:

    • Advanced notice of planned power cuts.
    • Priority support in an emergency (such as alternative heating facilities if your supply is interrupted).
    • Messages from your supplier shared with someone you've nominated (such as family or a carer).
    • Arrangements to ensure it is safe for you to use a prepayment meter if you have one. If not, you may get a credit meter for free or get your meter moved for you.
    • Meter reading services at regular intervals, if you or a nominated person can't take a reading.

    You can sign up to the Priority Services Register if:
     

    • You're of pensionable age.
    • You're disabled or chronically sick.
    • You have a long-term medical condition.
    • You have a hearing or visual impairment or additional communication needs.
    • You're in a vulnerable situation (ie, you can't top up prepayment due to injury, or mental health conditions that may impact understanding of bills).
    See regulator Ofgem's website for more info on the Priority Services Register.

    Working from home? See if you can claim tax back if bills have gone up

    If you are or have been required to work from home full or part-time as your normal office isn't open due to coronavirus restrictions, you can claim for increased costs as a result, eg, heating and electricity.

    In practice, working out these costs is tough, so instead you can claim on a £6/week rate. This works one of two ways:

    • Employers can pay you £6/week extra, free of tax. Yet right now, with many firms struggling, asking may be bad timing, so...
    • If not, you can claim tax relief on £6 of income a week, which for basic 20% taxpayers is £1.20/wk (about £60/yr) and 40% taxpayers £2.40/wk (about £120/yr). You can apply directly to HM Revenue & Customs for this tax relief – and as long as you're claiming relief on the equivalent of £6/wk for the period you worked at home, you won't have to provide evidence of the extra spending.

    There's full info on what you can claim and how to do it in Martin's 'Working from home due to coronavirus? Claim tax back on extra costs' blog.

  2. Help if you're struggling to pay your broadband bill, or you can't afford broadband at all and need it for home schooling

    With many people still working from home, broadband has become much more important since the pandemic began.

    If you're struggling to pay your bill, all providers say that anyone who's struggling should contact them as soon as possible to discuss their options. 

    Ofcom, the broadband regulator, has told firms not to disconnect people who can't pay: "We expect providers to keep customers connected even where they are struggling to pay. We'll be asking them to suspend all disconnections, except those requested by the customer. We are in close contact with companies about what further support they can offer to customers in financial difficulties."

    Can I still switch broadband provider?

    For most, switching during the current crisis shouldn't be a problem as your switch can often be done remotely –no one needs access to your home. 

    Yet for those switching to or from cable (eg, Virgin) may need to wait as it often means you need new lines installing.

    When you do switch, your broadband may be down for up to two hours, but in rare cases the outage can be longer if anything goes wrong, so it's worth considering at this time when broadband's so crucial.

  3. Help if you're struggling to pay your council tax

    The Local Government Association (which represents councils in England and Wales) has told us that all local authorities have help in place for people who are facing financial hardship as a result of coronavirus. COSLA, its Scottish equivalent, has told us that councils there are helping too. If you're in Northern Ireland, see more on the council tax-equivalent domestic rates system in the questions below.

    The support you get will depend on your circumstances but it could include:

    • Payment plans. This is where you can work with your council to figure out an affordable repayment schedule if you're in arrears or unable to pay forthcoming council tax instalments.

    • Bill reductions if you're on universal credit, other benefits or a low income. Council tax reductions are long-standing discounts of up to 100% off bills for those on benefits or a low income. It doesn't matter if you own your own home or rent, or whether you're employed or not. All can apply. Yet what you get depends on:

      - Where you live (each council runs its own scheme).
      - Your circumstances (eg, income, number of children, benefits, residency status).
      - Your income, including savings, pensions and your partner's income.
      - Who lives with you (eg kids or other adults).

      Some councils may let you backdate the reduction, but by how many months varies by council so you'll need to check, though the sooner you do it, the sooner your bill will be reduced. 

    • In England, you may also qualify for some money off your bill. On top of the discount provided to those on a low income, you may also be able to get something extra. How much you can get depends on your council, but we've seen £50-£150 being offered when we've done spot checks of councils. Find details of your local council at Gov.uk.

    How do I check what my council is offering?

    Sadly there's no gold standard of help here, so what's available to you depends on where you live. For full details of what you can get, you'll need to contact your local authority – use the Gov.uk checker to find yours.

    In addition, it's worth checking you're paying the right amount of council tax in the first place:

    Claim any council tax discounts you're entitled to – for example, people living alone, students and people with 'severe mental impairments' (or living with someone who has) can all get discounts.
    - Also check your home's in the right council tax band (England and Scotland only).

    Help if you've temporarily got a lower income due to Covid & several debts to pay off

    Stepchange has set up a Covid Payment Plan scheme to help you deal with creditors and help pay your debts off. It'll give you time and space to get back on your feet while still paying something towards your debts. You can even include priority debts like council tax and gas & electric arrears as well as loans and credit cards. Read more details and check if it's right for you on the Stepchange website

    Quick question

    What help's available with rates in Northern Ireland?

    If you live in Northern Ireland and you're in arrears paying rates, no new action will be started to recover the debt until after the current crisis has passed. If you've already had recovery action started against you, this won't be cancelled but it will be suspended for the time being and you won't be pursued for the debt until after the crisis.

    You can also check if you're entitled to any support with paying your rates – which could include low income rate relief, the Rate Rebate Scheme for people on universal credit or housing benefit rate relief. There's full info on the NIdirect website.

  4. Help if you're struggling to pay water bills

    Water companies in England and Wales are encouraging households with immediate or short-term issues paying their bills to get in contact as soon as possible so that they can receive help.

    The best thing to do if you need help is to contact your water company or check its website for an online form. All companies offer some kind of help, though what you’ll actually be offered if you’re struggling will depend on your circumstances. Help may include:

    • Offering payment breaks or payment holidays. Some providers can pause your payments for a time. 
    • Flexible payments. Some will reassess your current payment plan, and lower it while you're struggling. 
    • Social tariffs. These are special tariffs each firm offers to reduce or put a cap on what you pay.
    • Help with arrears. Suppliers can wipe arrears if you can agree to make regular payments.
    • Capped tariffs for those on water meters. Via a scheme known as WaterSure, providers offer capped tariffs if you get certain benefits and need to use a lot of water for medical reasons or because you have a certain number of school-age children.
    • Pay directly from benefits. Your bill payment can be taken directly from your benefits.
    • Charitable trusts. Some providers have charitable trusts that offer grants to struggling households.

    Need extra help? Sign up to the Priority Services Register

    All water firms in England and Wales have schemes that allow customers to register for free additional support if they can't leave their home, have limited mobility, have sight, speech, hearing or cognitive impairment, or have a serious illness or a mental health condition. 

    Help includes: 

    • Uninterrupted supply of water, even during wider-scale service interruptions. 
    • Help managing and paying bills, including home visits, reading meters and providing alternative bill formats such as Braille or additional languages.
    • Help identifying that the person at the door is a genuine water company employee.

Warning – watch out for coronavirus scams

scams signpost

Lowlife scammers are taking advantage of coronavirus to try to defraud people, especially the elderly and vulnerable.

Action Fraud identified thousands of reports of fraud relating to coronavirus, with victims' losses totalling more than £5 million. Many of these are online shopping scams where victims have tried to buy products such as protective face masks and hand sanitiser from fraudsters. There have also been over 4,400 reports of coronavirus-themed phishing emails designed to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive information.

A common tactic used by scammers is to send messages purporting to be from research groups linked with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, or the World Health Organisation. Some claim to be able to provide a list of people infected with Covid-19, which links to a malicious website or asks the victim to make a payment in Bitcoin.

Other common phishing emails include those pretending to be from the Government, sending articles about the coronavirus outbreak with links to fake company websites, or sending details of investment schemes which encourage people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn.

Received a suspicious email? The National Cyber Security Centre (part of GCHQ) has launched its new Suspicious Email Reporting Service to take phishing scams down – all you have to do is forward suspect emails to its report@phishing.gov.uk email address.

Pension holders targeted in spate of scams

One very common scam during the coronavirus crisis has targeted pension holders, saying they can access cash quickly if they transfer their pension. And with many desperate for cash, this scam often finds a target – and victims lose an average of £82,000 through pension scams. Here's what to look out for

  • An out-of-the-blue offer of a free pension review. If someone calls you and says they're from your pension company, or are from a financial adviser offering you a free pension review, NEVER continue with the call.
  • Someone saying they're calling from your pension company. If they say they're from your pension company, say you will call them back, and then look up the company's contact details online or on your policy documents. NEVER call a number they've given to you. If it's a legitimate call, the caller won't mind.
  • If you're under 55 and someone calls with an offer to access your pension, don't continue. You can't access your pension before you're 55 unless you're terminally ill. Anyone offering this isn't legitimate.
  • Someone offering to manage your pension. Similarly, if someone asks you to transfer your pension to their company or put it under their management, do your homework on the company before taking any action. You can check if pension companies or advisers are registered on the FCA Financial Services Register, a public record that shows details of regulated firms, individuals and other bodies. 

Tips to protect yourself against scams

Action Fraud says you can do the following to minimise your chances of being tricked:

  • Be vigilant for scam messages. This includes not clicking on any links or attachments if you receive a suspicious message, and not responding to any unsolicited messages or calls that ask for personal or financial details.
  • Take care when shopping online. You should always do your research if buying from a company or person you don't know and trust, and possibly ask a friend or family member for advice first. If you do go ahead with an online purchase, you should use a credit card if possible for extra protection (see our Section 75 guide).
  • Protect your devices from threats. This includes always installing the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from new threats.

Also see MSE Katie's 20+ coronavirus scams to watch out for blog for more of the known coronavirus-related scams out there and tips to protect yourself from fraudsters.

Have you been scammed?

If you've lost money to fraudsters, you should do the following:

  1. Immediately end all communication with them.
  2. Contact your bank to tell them you've been scammed, and cancel any recurring payments.
  3. Report the scam to the police through the Action Fraud website. You can also call it on 0300 123 2040, but be aware it has a reduced phone service at the moment, so waiting times may be longer than usual.
  4. If you want one-on-one help, you can contact Citizens Advice Scams Action by phone or online chat.

Looking for other help? This guide has info about how coronavirus might affect your finances. We also have...

Coronavirus travel rights for the latest on holidays and refunds.
Coronavirus employees' help for furlough scheme info.
Coronavirus self-employed & limited co help for SEISS grant info.
Coronavirus universal credit & benefits for benefits updates.
- Coronavirus life in lockdown for the latest on supermarkets, MOTs etc.