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How to get financial help in second covid lockdown, from paying bills and rent to mortgages

How to get financial help in second covid lockdown, from paying bills and rent to mortgages

HOUSEHOLDS struggling to meet the cost of bills, rent or mortgage repayments due to coronavirus and the second lockdown should check what help is avai

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HOUSEHOLDS struggling to meet the cost of bills, rent or mortgage repayments due to coronavirus and the second lockdown should check what help is available to them.

Both the government and providers alike have announced a range of packages to help people who’ve been affected financially by the pandemic.

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 A range of different help has been announced for households, we explain what you need to know
A range of different help has been announced for households, we explain what you need to knowCredit: Getty – Contributor

Many of the support measures on offer have been extended following the second national lockdown in England, including the furlough scheme and self-employed grants.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak today confirmed the furlough scheme, which was extended until December over the weekend, is now set to last until March next year.

He also announced self-employed people unable to work will be able to claim a grant of 80% of their trading profits for November to January – worth up to £7,500.

Universal Credit and housing benefit have also increased by £1,000 a year, although this boost is set to end from April next year.

But if you don’t qualify for these schemes or benefits or you need additional help on top, below’s a summary of what’s being offered.

If in doubt, speak to your provider – and hang in there for an answer as they are struggling at present to keep up with demand.

Also consider reaching out to free debt help organisations such as Citizens Advice, National Debtline, and StepChange.

Bills

Below we round up the key initiatives from providers and regulators to help you keep your bills under control during the pandemic.

Broadband

During the first coronavirus lockdown, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media all offered customers the option to pause sports packages while BT and TalkTalk users also could get one month’s refund.

Now that live sport has resumed, your payments will have done the same.

If you’re still struggling, it’s important that you contact your provider and ask for help – they might let you go on a payment plan to pay off what you owe or delay your payments.

Just make sure you contact the provider before cancelling any direct debits, or you may be charged extra.

Credit card repayments

Credit card providers have offered payment holidays for customers during the pandemic, and earlier this week the financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), proposed extending these for up to six months.

Under the proposals, which are yet to come into effect, borrowers who haven’t had a payment holiday will be eligible for two payment deferrals of up to six months in total.

While customers who’ve already had one payment holiday will be eligible for a further payment deferral of up to three months.

If you’ve already had two payment holidays, or you require help urgently, you should contact your lender for extra support, which may include waiving fees and setting up tailored repayment plans.

If you request a payment holiday, keep in mind that you’ll still accrue interest during the break, which will cost you more in the long run as the balance will be higher than if you continued making the repayments.

Council tax

Working age people who get Council Tax Support will be able to get £150 a year off bills due to the pandemic.

Energy bills 

Energy providers are offering help on a case by case basis, so get in touch if you’re struggling.

Examples of help being offered include payment holidays and the removal of debt charges.

Meanwhile, customers with prepayment meters who aren’t able to leave their home to top up will be able to ask their supplier to keep them connected.

Bill payments could also be reassessed, reduced or paused where necessary.

Mobile

EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone have zero rated data and calls to NHS Services.

NHS workers can currently also claim unlimited data across BT’s SIM Only, Family SIM, Data SIM and handset plans.

During the first coronavirus lockdown, EE gave its vulnerable and disabled customers free calls, texts and data.

While Vodafone in March offered 500,000 customers and vulnerable people free unlimited internet data for 30 days.

The provider then extended it for six months for NHS workers and vulnerable customers, meaning eligible claimants can get the free unlimited data until December 5.

TV Licensing

The BBC initially put the scrapping of free TV Licences for the over 75s on hold due to coronavirus, but then started charging from August 1.

If you struggle to pay for your TV Licence, you may want to consider splitting up the bill and pay it weekly, fortnightly, or monthly.

You can find more information about different ways to pay on the TV Licensing website.

If you’re still struggling to pay, then contact TV Licensing for help.

Water

Regulator Ofwat told The Sun support available at all firms includes payment holidays and payment matching.

The latter means that if you’ve built up a lot of debt, for every £1 you repay, for example, your supplier will pay £1 too.

Mortgages

Homeowners who are struggling financially due to the pandemic will be able to get a payment holiday of up to six months.

Under new proposals being finalised by the FCA, homeowners can get the extra help if they haven’t had a payment holiday previously.

The payment breaks, which were due to end on October 31, are being extended as England went back into lockdown from today, November 5.

If you want to take a mortgage payment holiday you’ll have to wait until the new rules are in place, which means you should hold off on contacting your lender for the time being.

Taking a mortgage holiday should also be a last resort, so you should only ask for one if you really need it.

Interest will continue to accrue during the holiday, which means you’ll owe more money on your mortgage overall.

In fact, taking a mortgage payment holiday because of coronavirus could cost you £2,769 in higher repayments.

Rent

During the first coronavirus lockdown, the government banned evictions until September 20, 2020, meaning tenants couldn’t be forced out of their homes during the pandemic.

Although, the rules didn’t apply where tenants had demonstrated anti-social behaviour or committed fraud, for example.

Recently, it also changed the law to increase notice periods to six months.

Plus, it introduced a series of new measures which prevent landlords from evicting tenants in lockdown areas or over Christmas.

The government is yet to confirm to The Sun whether this means evictions are now off the cards for the whole of England following the second lockdown, and we’ll update this article once we get a response.

In the meantime, if you’re struggling, private renters should speak to their landlord and social renters should speak to their housing association.

They may be willing to defer payment for a while or allow you to pay a smaller amount until you can get back on your feet.

See our rent payments and coronavirus guide for more information.

This post first appeared on thesun.co.uk

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