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1 Apr 2021

Covid-19 payment holiday applications close: how to get help with your finances

Mortgage, credit card and loan providers to offer tailored support to borrowers

The deadline to apply for a payment holiday on your mortgage, credit card or personal loan has now passed - but it's still possible to get help if your finances have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since last March, millions of people have taken temporary payment breaks due to the pandemic, but these support measures have now come to an end.

Here, Which? explains the options that are now available for borrowers facing financial difficulties and outline the steps you can take to get help.

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Payment holidays and Covid-19

Last March, the government announced a package of measures designed to help borrowers struggling with their finances due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

This included the ability to apply for temporary payment deferrals on mortgages, credit cards and personal loans.

By July, 1.8 million people had taken payment breaks on their mortgages, and deferrals had been granted on 1.18 million credit cards and 828,000 loans.

After the commencement of a further national lockdown at the end of October, the government extended the deadline to apply for a payment holiday to 31 March this year.

Who can still get a payment holiday?

Now we're into April, the deadline to apply for a payment holiday on your mortgage, credit card or personal loan has now passed, with one exception.

If you currently have a payment holiday in place, you can have it extended up until 31 July, as long as this doesn't take you over the six-month limit.

Tailored support options for borrowers

Up to 31 March, banks had been told to offer personalised support options once borrowers had used up their maximum of six months of payment holidays.

From today, however, tailored support will be available as standard to any customers in financial difficulties.

Support for mortgage holders

The support you'll get will be based on an assessment of your financial circumstances, but could include:

  • a pause on payments for a temporary period
  • a reduction of payments for a temporary period
  • changing your mortgage term to make payments more affordable.

Your lender should inform you of any consequences of these options. For example, further payment deferrals or reductions will result in it taking longer and costing you more to pay off your mortgage. These measures may also be reflected on your credit file.

Support for loans and credit card borrowers

There is also a range of support options on the table for credit card customers. Again, these will depend on your personal circumstances, but can include the following:

  • offering you support before you miss a payment
  • pausing or reducing payments for a set period
  • setting up a sustainable and affordable repayment plan and preventing debts from escalating once it is in place
  • directing you to independent debt help or money guidance, which you can access before deciding which form of support to take.

someone paying off a credit card using a laptop an

What to do if you're worried about your finances

If you're concerned about making payments on your mortgage, credit card or loan, the first step is to contact your lender as soon as possible and be open about your difficulties.

This will enable your bank to properly assess your situation and find the most suitable remedy.

You could also consider taking independent advice from a debt charity such as StepChange or the Money Advice Service.

Ban on repossessions comes to an end

From today, mortgage lenders will once again be able to enforce repossession orders, with the ban on enforcement activity having now come to an end.

The FCA says enforcement action should only take place as a last resort, and that lenders should consider whether repossession is appropriate, especially if their customer is considered vulnerable due to circumstances related to Covid-19.

Which? believes the FCA's decision to end the ban on repossessions is a mistake at a time when many people have had their finances severely damaged by the pandemic.

We believe the ban on repossessions should have continued while Covid-19 restrictions and associated support (such as the furlough scheme) remain in place.