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If you can’t pay your bills because of coronavirus

This advice applies to England

There are things you can do if you're struggling to pay your bills because of coronavirus, for example your council tax, rent, loans and energy bills.

If you’re already in debt

It’s important to get help straight away if you’re in debt, or worried about money. Don’t ignore your bills or letters about money you owe.

You can find out how to start paying your debts . You can also get help from an adviser.

It’s also worth speaking to the organisations you owe money to – they might be able to help by letting you pay smaller amounts or take a break.

Some bills can cause you more problems if you don’t pay them. It’s worth checking what bills you should pay first.

Check if you can get extra help or money

You might be able to claim benefits or get more money on your current benefits if:

  • you have coronavirus, or you’re following guidance to stay at home
  • you’ve lost your job 
  • or you’re self-employed and can’t get work
  • you can’t work because your workplace has closed 

Check what benefits you can get if you’re affected by coronavirus

Check if you can get free school meals

If you have children and you get certain benefits, you might be able to get free school meals for your children.

Check if you can get help with your living costs

You can contact your local council to see if they can give you any extra help from a hardship fund, including food or essential things like clothes. Check your local council on GOV.UK.

You might be able to get help from with your living costs even if your visa says 'No public funds' or if you're not allowed to be in the UK. You can still get help if either:

  • you have a child who needs help
  • you have a medical condition and you need someone to look after you

Check if you can pay less council tax

You might qualify for a council tax reduction if your income has dropped or if you started claiming benefits recently.

You should contact your local council to see if you qualify for a council tax reduction.

If you don’t think you qualify, it’s still worth

  • asking your local council if you can get a council tax reduction
  • telling them if you’re struggling to pay – they might let you pay less for a while or pay over a longer time
You can find your local council on GOV.UK.

Check what help you can get with your bills

Most organisations or people you owe money to should be able to help you by doing things like:

  • reducing your payments
  • giving you more time to pay
  • keeping you connected to their service even if you owe money - for example your energy, phone or internet 

Each provider will be different so it’s important to check what help you should get.

If you can’t pay your rent

You might be entitled to benefits to help with housing costs if your income has reduced, even if you’re still working.

You should explain the situation to your landlord straight away - they might give you more time to pay, or agree to reduce your rent. 

You can check what to do if you can’t pay your rent because of coronavirus.

If you can’t pay your mortgage

If you ask your mortgage provider, they might agree to pause your mortgage payments for 3 months. This is called a ‘payment deferral’.

You can’t get a payment deferral after 31 October 2020 - make sure you ask your mortgage provider before this date.

You can ask for a payment deferral for somewhere you live or somewhere you’ve bought to let. If you get a payment deferral, it might make it harder to get credit in the future, for example a loan.

It’s best to ask your mortgage provider for a payment deferral on their website if you can. They should agree to give you a payment deferral if you can’t pay your mortgage because of coronavirus – for example because you can’t go to work.

If you can, keep making your payments until your mortgage provider agrees you can take a payment deferral.

After your payment deferral you’ll still need to make up the payments you missed, plus interest added during the 3 months. This means you’ll have to either:

  • pay more each month
  • keep making payments for longer

Your mortgage provider might contact you during your payment deferral or after it ends to work out how you can pay it back. They might help you make a payment plan or offer to add your arrears to your mortgage. You can find out more about dealing with mortgage arrears.

If you still can’t pay at the end of 3 months, you can ask your mortgage provider for a second payment deferral of up to 3 months – they should usually give you one. You can ask to defer all or part of the payments  - you can’t get more than 2 payment deferrals. Make sure you ask your mortgage provider before 31 October 2020.

Your mortgage provider might not give you a second deferral if you were already behind with your payments on 20 March 2020, but it’s still worth asking.  They should still help you plan to pay the money you owe.

If you’re struggling to make your payments, you can ask your mortgage provider to lower your interest rates so you have less to pay back. They might do this if your interest rates are high - for example if you’re paying back a second mortgage.

You can find out more about payment deferrals on the Financial Conduct Authority’s website.

You can also find out more about dealing with mortgage problems.

If you’re behind with your mortgage payments

Your mortgage provider shouldn’t evict you until after 1 February 2021.

They can start to take court action against you, or restart action they've paused.

If you class yourself as vulnerable, you should explain this to your mortgage provider and ask them to hold off possession action. For example, you might be experiencing health problems. 

If your mortgage provider says they will continue, you should complain to them as soon as possible.

Your mortgage provider should only repossess your home after exploring all other options with you. For example, they should have offered another option like a payment plan.

Your mortgage provider shouldn’t try to evict you if your only arrears are deferred payments and you’ve arranged to pay them back.

If your mortgage provider’s still trying to evict you, talk to an adviser.

Your mortgage provider shouldn’t start court action against you without following the Mortgage Conduct of Business rules set by the FCA. You can check what happens when your mortgage lender takes you to court

If you had a court deadline on or after 28 March 2020

Your mortgage lender or the court should write to you to tell you your case has started again – this is called a ‘reactivation notice’. Check your reactivation notice to find out if your deadline has changed and what your new deadline is.

If you can’t meet the deadline, write to the court to tell them why and ask if they can change it. For example, tell them if you’re too ill to meet the deadline. You should ask them within 14 days of getting the letter.

If you’re not sure when your deadline is or you think you might have missed it, contact the court or your solicitor or adviser if you have one.

If you can’t pay your energy bills

At the moment, your energy supplier won’t disconnect your gas or electricity if you miss a payment. If you’ve got a prepayment meter and you don’t top it up, your energy supply might still stop.

If you call your supplier, you might have to wait longer than normal to speak to someone. If you can, try contacting them online through their website, through social media, or by email.

Find out more about what to do if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills

If you have a prepayment energy meter

Your supplier will try to help you find ways to keep your energy supply connected if you can’t top up your meter because of coronavirus. 

Tell your supplier as soon as possible if you can’t top up. You’ll find their contact details on their website or on your bill.

Check our advice on what to do if:

If you can't pay your mobile, phone, internet or TV bill

You should be able to get help from most providers. 

Contact your provider and ask what they can do to help. For example, they might agree to help you by:

  • reducing your bill
  • giving you more time to pay
  • increasing your data or download limit
  • moving you to a contract that suits your needs better

If your provider won't help you, you might be able to switch to a different provider. If you owe money to your old provider when you switch, you’ll still have to pay them.

If you work for the NHS

Your provider might be able to give you extra help, for example:

  • giving you more data, calls or texts
  • upgrading your broadband, if you have to work from home

Contact your provider and ask what they can do to help NHS staff.

If you can't pay your TV licence fee

Contact TV Licensing for help. They can help you:

  • change your payment plan
  • cancel your licence if you don’t need it

You can check how to contact TV Licensing and what they can do to help on their website.

If you can't pay your water bill

It’s best to speak to your water company as soon as you can if you’re having problems paying your bill. You might be able to get a payment holiday on your bill, or move to a cheaper tariff. 

You can find out more about what to do if you’re struggling to pay your water bill.

You can also read the information for customers on Water UK’s website.

If you can't pay a court fine, county court judgment or court order

You might be able to change the amount you have to pay. You can check how to:

If you can't pay child maintenance

Tell the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) – check how to contact the CMS on their website.

If you’re struggling to pay your essential living costs, the CMS might agree to let you pay less.

If you can't pay your tax bill

If you're struggling to pay your tax bill, you should speak to HMRC straight away. You can call them on their coronavirus helpline:

HMRC coronavirus helpline
Telephone: 0800 0159 559
Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm
Calls to this number are free.

You can read more about what to do if you can't pay your tax bill on time on GOV.UK.

If your individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) includes tax debt

If you have an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) that includes tax debt, you might be able to delay your payments.

Speak to your insolvency practitioner - they'll let you know if it's possible to delay your payments.

You can find out more about what to do if you're struggling to pay your IVA.

If you can’t pay for your insurance

If you’re struggling to pay because of coronavirus, contact your insurance provider and explain the situation. 

They might be able to help you by:

  • removing parts of your policy to bring the cost down - for example, cancelling breakdown cover
  • letting you pay over a longer period or change your repayment date 
  • not charging you fees for paying late
  • pausing your payments for up to 3 months - you'll still have to pay later and you might have to pay interest too

Your insurance provider shouldn’t charge you any fees for changing or cancelling your policy. 

If you paid for your insurance up front and then change your policy to make it cheaper, you should get a refund of the difference.

Asking your insurance provider to pause your payments

If you ask your insurance provider, they might agree to pause your insurance payments for 3 months. This is called a ‘payment deferral’. 

You can’t get a payment deferral after 31 October 2020 - make sure you ask your insurance provider before this date.

If you get a payment deferral, it might make it harder to get credit in the future.

It’s best to ask your insurance provider for a payment deferral on their website if you can. They should agree to give you a payment deferral if you can’t pay your insurance because of coronavirus – for example, because you can’t go to work.

If you can, keep making your payments until your insurance provider agrees you can take a payment deferral.

After your payment deferral you’ll still need to make up the payments you missed, plus interest added during the 3 months. This will mean you’ll have to pay more each month. If you think you’ll struggle to do this, speak to your provider to see how they can help or if they'll cancel the policy.

Your insurance provider might contact you during your payment deferral or after it ends to work out how you can pay it back. They might help you by doing things like:

  • helping you to make a payment plan
  • reducing or not charging interest
  • letting you pay less every month 

It’s worth talking to them as they might be able to help you. 

You can’t get more than 1 payment deferral. 

You can find out more about payment deferrals on the Financial Conduct Authority’s website.

If you can’t get a deferral

If you don't think your insurance provider is treating you fairly, you could complain to them. 

If your insurance provider won’t agree to help, you can complain to an ombudsman.

If you can’t repay your benefit overpayment or budgeting loan

If you’re struggling to pay your essential living costs and can’t afford your repayments, contact the DWP’s Debt Management contact centre.

DWP - Debt Management contact centre
Telephone: 0800 916 0647
Textphone: 0800 916 0651
Calling from abroad: +44 (0)161 904 1233
Monday to Friday, 8am to 7.30pm
Saturday, 9am to 4pm

Calls to these numbers are free.

If you can’t repay your credit card, store card or catalogue debts

At the moment, your credit card or store card company won’t stop your credit card – even if they’ve said they might.

If you ask the company, they might agree to reduce or pause your payments temporarily.

Check what to do if you’re struggling with credit card bills.

If you can’t repay a loan

Your lender might agree to reduce or pause your payments temporarily.

This might be money you’ve borrowed from a bank or a loan company. It could also be a payday loan or money from a pawnbroker.

Check what to do if you can’t repay a loan.

If you can’t pay for something you bought on finance

The finance company might agree to reduce or pause your payments temporarily.

You might have used finance to buy things like:

  • a car
  • something for your home - like a washing machine or furniture

Buying something on finance is sometimes known as ‘rent to own’ or ‘hire purchase’. 

Check what to do if you bought something on finance you can’t pay for.

If you’re thinking about borrowing money to pay your bills

It’s best to ask for help first from the organisations you need to pay. You might be able to agree a plan with them to help you pay the money you owe.

It’s usually more expensive to take out a loan – you’ll have to pay extra costs like interest.

If you decide to take out a loan, you should:

  • check you can afford to pay the loan back

If the lender isn’t authorised or registered

If they’re not authorised or registered, don’t borrow money from them.

An unauthorised lender might want to charge high interest rates or expensive fees. They might not give you proper paperwork, and might ask to take things like your passport, or a bank card as security for the loan. 

Unauthorised lenders are often called ‘loan sharks’. You can report loan sharks on the Stop Loan Sharks website.

If you need an overdraft or you already have one

It’s worth telling your bank or building society you’re struggling because of coronavirus. If you don’t normally have an overdraft, they might agree to let you have one. If they give you an overdraft or you already have one, they should agree not to charge interest on the first £500 for 3 months.

If you’re still struggling at the end of 3 months, ask your bank or building society. They should agree not to charge interest on the first £500 for another 3 months.

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