Coronavirus advice and help

 July 2020

Fact sheet no. BDL 74 Coronavirus advice and help

Many businesses have been affected by the outbreak of coronavirus and lots of people are having to manage on a reduced income. The Government, banks and other organisations have said they will offer help if you have been affected by coronavirus.

This fact sheet explains what help is available if you are in business. It also has information about the help that is available if you are finding it difficult to pay your household bills or debts because of the outbreak.
 

If you need more information about the symptoms of coronavirus or advice about avoiding infection, go to the NHS website.

Help for sole traders and businesses

Government guidance

The Government has released guidance for employers and businesses on how you should deal with the impact of coronavirus. The guide covers several topics, such as how to help prevent the spread of the virus, what to do if someone in your work force has coronavirus.

The Chancellor also confirmed in a statement on 17 March 2020 that advice given by Government to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres is sufficient for businesses to claim on their insurance if they have appropriate business interruption cover for pandemics in place. Although advice did change and the Government said that many of these businesses had to close, the Chancellor's earlier statement may affect the date from which your insurer pays you.

Help for the self-employed and businesses

The Government has announced the following help for self-employed people and businesses.

Statutory Sick Pay refunds

 

If you run a business with fewer than 250 people, costs for up to 14 days of Statutory Sick Pay will be refunded for eligible employees who have been off work because of coronavirus. 

The online claim tool is now available. For further guidance, including eligibility details, see GOV.UK.

HMRC Coronavirus Helpline

 

You can call the HMRC Coronavirus Helpline on 0800 024 1222 if you cannot pay your tax bill on time because of coronavirus. You can also continue to use HMRC’s Time to Pay service.

Deferral of some payments to HMRC

 

Businesses are being given longer to make some payments to HMRC. This includes:

VAT rate change for some businesses

 

From 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021, the rate of VAT applied on most tourism and hospitality-related activities will be cut from 20% to 5%.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

 

You may be finding it difficult to maintain your workforce because your business has been affected by coronavirus. If this is the case, you may be able to furlough employees and apply for a grant to cover some of their wage costs through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The scheme is available to all UK businesses and will run until 31 October 2020. In most cases, you had until 10 June to add new employees to this scheme, although there are special rules if you have an employee who is returning from statutory parental leave

The amount that HMRC will repay towards a furloughed employee's wages will depend upon the period that is being claimed for.

  • For June and July HMRC will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 per month for the hours that an employee is furloughed, as well as employer National Insurance Contributions and pension contributions.
  • For August HMRC will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 per month for the hours that an employee is furloughed. HMRC will no longer pay anything towards employer National Insurance Contributions and pension contribution.
  • For September, HMRC will pay 70% of wages up to a reduced cap of £2,187.50. Your business will have to pay the remaining 10% of wages to any furloughed employees.
  • For October, HMRC will pay 60% of wages up to a reduced cap of £1,875. Your business will have to pay the remaining 20% of wages to any furloughed employees.
For all periods, your employee must be paid 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500 per month for the time they are furloughed.
    Also, from 1 July, you can bring furloughed employees back to work on a part-time basis. Your business will have to cover the full cost of their wages for the hours that they work.
    Apply to the scheme online through the HMRC portal. Successful claims should be paid within six working days.

    If you are a director of a limited company and paid as an employee of the limited company through PAYE, the limited company can apply for help from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if you are furloughed. Our understanding is that a director who is also an employee can furlough themselves as long as they are only carry out minor statutory and administrative director duties. You must not provide services or carry out income generating ‘employee’ activities while you are furloughed.

    This scheme will not cover any dividends that you receive as a director. So, if you are a director of a limited company, paid as an employee of the limited company through PAYE and also get dividends from the limited company, you will need to decide whether being furloughed is the best option for you. If you are unsure, speak to your accountant or bookkeeper.

    If you are a salaried member of a limited liability partnership (LLP), then you may also be eligible for support through the scheme. If you are a member of an LLP and uncertain about whether you are ‘salaried’, or not, check the LLP agreement. You may also need to contact your accountant or bookkeeper.

    The Job Retention Bonus

     

    This gives employers a one-off bonus of £1,000 for each eligible furloughed employee who is still employed on 31 January 2021. To be eligible, an employee must be paid at least £520 on average in each month from November 2020 to January 2021.

    The Self-employment Income Support Scheme

     

    There are two grants that may be available to you under this scheme. Each grant is paid in a single instalment to cover a three-month period.

    • The first grant paid 80% of your average trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for three months (so £7,500 in total). This part of the scheme opened on 13 May 2020 and closed on 13 July 2020.
    • The second grant pays 70% of your average trading profits up to a maximum of £6,570 for the three-month period that it covers. You will be able to apply for this grant from 17 August 2020 and can claim it even if you did not make a claim for the first grant.

    The taxable grants are available to self-employed individuals and members of a business partnership who have trading profits of less than £50,000 and get more than half of their income from self-employment. You must also:

    • have submitted your 2018 - 2019 tax return by 23 April 2020;
    • have traded in the 2019 - 2020 tax year;
    • still be trading (or would be if it were not for coronavirus);
    • plan to continue trading in the 2020 - 2021 tax year; and
    • have lost trading profits because of coronavirus.
    To make a claim for the second grant, you will also have to confirm that your business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020
     

    You can check whether you are eligible for the first grant now by using the HMRC online checker. If you are eligible, HMRC will ask for your contact details and tell you when you can make your claim. Once your claim is made and approved, you will usually get the payment within six working days. For more information, go to www.gov.uk and search for 'Claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme'. Please also read the scam warning.

    For more information about Government support for businesses, go to www.gov.uk and search for ‘Financial support for businesses during coronavirus (COVID-19)'.

    The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

     

    This scheme is now open and allows banks to offer loans to support small and medium sized businesses. The Government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments.

    The Government also announced the following changes to the scheme on 3 April 2020.

    • All viable small businesses affected by coronavirus issues, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, are now eligible for the scheme.
    • Lenders cannot ask for a personal guarantee for loans under £250,000.

    For more information about the scheme and a list of lenders, visit the British Business Bank website.

    The Bounce Back Loan scheme

     
    This Government backed scheme is now open. It aims to help small and medium sized businesses that have been affected by coronavirus to take out loans of between £2,000 and £50,000.
    Bounce Back Loans can offer repayment terms of up to six years and no repayments are due for the first 12 months of the loan. See GOV.UK for more information about this scheme, including eligibility details.

    Recovery Advice for Business scheme

     

    The professional and business services sector and Enterprise Nation are offering small and medium sized businesses free advice in the following areas:

    • accounting and finance;
    • people and building a team;
    • planning, strategy and pivoting;
    • marketing, PR and social media; and
    • technology and digital tools.
    The scheme is open until 31 December 2020. To access the service, go to the Enterprise Nation platform.

    Extra advice:

    business support finder

    GOV.UK has an online business support finder. It asks you several multiple choice questions. It uses your answers to produce a list of the types of coronavirus support that may be available to you and your business.

    Extra advice:

    sector support

    GOV.UK also has information about coronavirus advice and support that is available from business representative organisations and trade associations. Check whether there is any extra help available for your type of business.

     

    Business rates

     
    • Business rates in England will be scrapped for 12 months from 1 April 2020 for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses. Contact your local authority to find out if you qualify.
    • Business rates in Wales will be scrapped for 12 months from 1 April 2020 for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £500,000 or below. Contact your local authority to find out if you qualify.

    The following changes apply to Business rates in Scotland.

    • Business rates will be scrapped for 12 months from 1 April 2020 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. You do not need to apply, as this relief will automatically be applied to your bill by your local authority.
      • Business rates will also be scrapped for 12 months from 1 April 2020 for Scottish airports and businesses that provide handling services for scheduled passenger flights at Scottish airports.
      • All business rates will get rates relief of 1.6% for the business rates year 2020 - 2021.

      Grants 

      The following grants are available to businesss in the UK.

      Kickstart scheme

       

      This scheme helps businesses create new jobs for some under 25 year olds at risk of long-term unemployment. It will pay a young person's wages for six months, plus an amount to cover overheads. For a 24-year-old, the grant will be around £6,500. The jobs created will need to be for a minimum of 25 hours per week and pay at least the National Minimum Wage. Businesses will also need to provide training and support for the young person to find a permanent job. You can apply to be part of the scheme from August 2020.

      Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme

       

      This scheme may be helpful if your business serves sit-down meals.

      During August 2020 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, meals eaten at participating businesses will have a 50% discount (up to a maximum discount of £10 per head, including children).

      For each week in August 2020, if you join the scheme, your business can claim the discount back. Funds will be paid into  your bank account within five working days. You will need to register through a website tbetween 13 July 2020 and 31 August 2020.

      The following grants are available in England.

       

      You do not need to do anything. Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible.

      •  A grant of £10,000 for the smallest businesses. These businesses will be ones currently eligible for small business rates relief or rural rate relief.
      •  A grant of £25,000 to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses that operate from smaller premises that have a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000.

      The Government has also announced funding for a Discretionary Grant Fund, which will be run by local authorities in England. The fund can give a grant payment of £25,000, £10,000 or under £10,000 to certain small businesses on a discretionary basis. It is expected that payments from the fund will start being made from early June 2020. Your local authority should set out the scope of their scheme on their website. For more information, contact your local authority.

      Other grants for certain businesses in England, such as dairy farmers and fishing businesses, are also available through other organisations. GOV.UK contains information about government support for businesses in England. Go to www.gov.uk and search for 'Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business support' or call 0800 998 1098.

      Apprentice funding

      The Government has also said that it will provide the following funding for businesses in England.

      • £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25; and
      • a new bonus of £1,500 for businesses to hire apprentices aged 25 and over.

      The following grants are available in Wales.

       
      The grants are administered through the business rates system.

      The Start Up Grant

       
      This scheme opened for applications 29 June 2020. It offers grants of £2,500 to eligible new businesses in Wales to support them in dealing with the severe impact of coronavirus. Applications can be accessed through the Economic Resilience Fund eligibility checker on the Business Wales website.
       

      The Non Domestic Rates grant scheme.

       

      This scheme offered the following help and closed to new applications at 5pm on 30th June 2020.

      • A grant of £10,000 for all businesses that are eligible for small business rates relief with a rateable value of up to £12,000.
      • A grant of £25,000 to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses that operate from smaller premises that have a rateable value of between £12,001 and £51,000.

      For information, go to www.gov.wales and search for Coronavirus (COVID-19): support for businesses.

      The Business Wales website also contains useful information for businesses in Wales, including details about government grants. For more information, go to www.businesswales.gov.wales or call 0300 060 3000.

      The following grants are available in Scotland.

      The Business Gateway website is run by local authorities. It contains useful information for businesses in Scotland. It also includes details and links to government grants and support, some of which are being managed through other organisations. Go to www.bgateway.com or call 0300 013 4753.

      Creative Scotland supports a wide range of activity in the arts, screen and creative industries. It has several funds available to individuals, groups and organisations. Go to www.creativescotland.com and see the funding section of the website for more information.

      The following grants were administered through the business rates system and closed for new applications on 10th July 2020.
        • A grant of £10,000 for small businesses in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief. Businesses could also get this grant if they got Nursery Relief, Business Growth Accelerator Relief, Disabled Relief, Fresh Start, Sports Relief, Enterprise Areas Relief or Charitable Rate Relief but were eligible for the Small Business Bonus Scheme. The scheme was also open to some businesses that occupy a premises, but are not the ratepayer. See MYGOV.SCOT for more information.
        • A grant of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure properties with a rateable value between £18,001 and £51,000.
        • A grant of £2,000 through the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund for those who started trading in the 2019 - 2020 tax year and were not eligible for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme. 

      Business rent

      In England and Wales, the Government has introduced temporary measures to protect business tenants.

      • From 26 March 2020 until 30 September 2020, business landlords can no longer end your lease and take the premises back (forfeit the lease) because of rent arrears.
    • Until 30 September 2020, the minimum amount of unpaid rent that you must owe before a business landlord can use bailiffs under the commercial rent arrears recovery process has also been increased.

    For more information, see our Commercial property leases fact sheet.

    In Scotland, the Scottish Government has also introduced a temporary law to protect business tenants. If your landlord wants to use an irritancy clause to end your business lease because of rent arrears, they must give you at least 14 weeks’ notice.
     
    Your business rent will still be due. If you cannot afford to pay your business rent, contact your landlord to discuss your situation.
     

    Companies House accounts

    The Government has introduced temporary measures to extend the time that most companies have to file their accounts. The extension is given automatically to:

    • public companies with a filing deadline that falls between 25 March 2020 and 6 April 2021; and
    • private companies with a filing deadline that falls between 26 June 2020 and 6 April 2021.

    For further information, see the guidance Temporary changes to Companies House filing requirements. You can check what the deadline is for filing your company’s accounts on the Companies House website.

    Directors’ duties

    The Government has introduced measures that temporarily suspend liability for wrongful trading. For many limited companies, this means that a director is not responsible for any worsening of the financial position of the company or its creditors that occurs between 1 March 2020 and 30 September 2020.

    Temporary protections for limited companies from statutory demands and winding-up notices

    The Government has introduced some temporary measures. In certain circumstances, your company may have extra protection from creditors using a statutory demand or other grounds to apply for the business to be wound up. Also, in some circumstances the court may be able to restore a company if a winding-up order has already been made. More information is available in our Limited companies fact sheet.

    Limited company meetings

    Some companies have a legal requirement to hold meetings. Holding any meeting during the pandemic is likely to be difficult because of social distancing. The Coronavirus Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 brought in temporary measures for meetings that were due to be held between 26 March 2020 and 30 September 2020. During this period:

    • meetings do not have to be held in a specific place; -
    • those attending do not have to be together in the same place;
    • meetings can be held, and votes can be cast, electronically or by other means;
    • shareholders do not have the right to attend the meeting; and
    • shareholders only have the right to participate by voting or by using a particular method of voting (for example, a show of hands).

If your income is affected

If you are unwell or self-isolating, you are not eligible to receive Statutory Sick Pay unless you are employed. Instead, you may be able to claim Universal Credit and/or New Style Employment and Support Allowance.

Universal Credit

Important:

Universal Credit can affect other benefits

Making a claim for Universal Credit may mean that you lose other benefits you currently get, such as tax credits. 

Once you make a Universal Credit claim, your tax credit claim will stop and you cannot go back to tax credits. Before you apply for Universal Credit, try to get advice from a benefits adviser to check if you will be better off claiming Universal Credit. You can look for a local benefits adviser on the Turn2us website.

  • Universal Credit is based on your household situation, so your or your partner’s income and savings may affect how much you get.
  • If you are making a new claim for Universal Credit, you do not need to call anyone. Claims can be made online. If any information needs checking, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will call you back.
  • There is a five week wait to receive your first Universal Credit payment. You can get a month’s advance payment, which you then pay back.
  • The Government has temporarily changed the way they work out Universal Credit for self-employed people on low incomes. Call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 for more information.

New Style Employment and Support Allowance

  • Eligibility for New Style Employment and Support Allowance will depend on whether you have paid enough National Insurance contributions during the last two to three years.
  • Income and savings that you or your partner have will not affect your claim. 
  • New Style Employment and Support Allowance can now be claimed from day one of illness, rather than the usual day eight.
  • You can now claim New Style Employment and Support Allowance online.  

If you are employed, you may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay more quickly than usual.

Turn2us has more information about benefits and how to claim them. They also have a benefits calculator to help you find out what you may be able to claim.

Already claiming benefits?

If you are claiming Universal Credit you may need to meet certain requirements to continue to receive the benefit. This could be job searching, periods of time at work, or attending regular meetings or assessments. 

The Government had previously announced that all face-to-face meetings were cancelled. However jobcentres will start to fully re-open again from July 2020. Contact the office paying your benefits to check if you need to attend your jobcentre again.

Work search requirements for Universal Credit and Job Seeker's Allowance had also been suspended for three months from 30 March 2020. These work search requirements will also restart in July 2020. If you don’t meet the work search requirements you may get your benefits sanctioned. Speak to your work coach to make sure you know what you are expected to do.

Reviews and reassessments for sickness and disability benefits had been suspended for three months. These are due to restart from July 2020 for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA). The Government has confirmed that you still do not need to attend face-to-face assessments until further notice. This will apply if you receive Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Industrial Injuries Disability Benefit and possibly Universal Credit.

Special arrangements will be in place if you are in receipt of benefits and cannot attend reassessments or jobcentre appointments because you are required to stay at home or are infected by coronavirus. For example, if you are disabled or sick and cannot attend a reassessment for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit, you will continue to receive your payments while your assessment is rearranged.

Important:

if you are already getting Universal Credit

Make sure you explain in your online journal why you haven’t been unable to attend as expected.

If coronavirus means that you are unable to carry out a task, you should phone the office paying the benefit to explain why. If you are claiming Universal credit, inform your work coach and explain what has happened in your online journal.

More information can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Benefit increases

From 6 April 2020, the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit will be increased by £20 per week. This will apply to new and existing claimants. The exact amount you will receive will depend on your situation. 

If you rent privately the maximum amount of help you can receive through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit has been increased to 30% of the average rents in all areas of the UK. This is called the Local Housing Allowance

To find out more about how these changes may help you, please visit Turn2us. They have a benefit calculator​ to help you find out if and how much you may be able to claim

Post Office Card Accounts - cash delivery of some benefit payments

You may be able to have your Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefit payments delivered in cash to your home by Royal Mail Special Delivery if:

  • you have a Post Office Card Account;
  • live in England; and
  • cannot leave your home because of shielding reasons.

The National Shielding Service and DWP will decide whether this is suitable. If you haven’t already been contacted but feel that this service would help you, contact the DWP and ask whether you can be included in this scheme.

Benefit overpayments

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) temporarily stopped taking action to recover the following benefits for three months:

  • DWP benefit overpayments;
  • tax credit debts being managed by the DWP; and
  • social fund loans.

These overpayments will start to be collected again from July 2020.

If you previously repaid by direct debit, you will receive a letter from the DWP before repayments start again. If you stopped the repayment with your bank, you may need to set up the repayments again from July 2020. Speak to the DWP Debt Management line on 0800 916 0647 if you are unsure.

If you previously repaid through your wages, the DWP will write to you to see if an alternative repayment plan can be set up. If you previously repaid through your benefits, you will be notified of repayments starting again by a letter or Universal Credit journal entries.

The DWP will also restart other methods of recovery such as using debt collectors.
 
If you are experiencing financial hardship and think you will struggle to afford the repayments you were previously making, speak to the DWP Debt Management line on 0800 916 0647.
 

Eligible Loan Reduction Scheme

The DWP also paused deductions from benefits for loans taken out using the Eligible Loan Reduction Scheme. These loans are usually through credit unions or other not-for-profit organisations.

Repayments to the Eligible Loan Reduction Scheme will also start again in July 2020. You will be notified by letter and don’t need to do anything.

Your bank or lender may be able to help

New measures brought in by the Financial conduct Authority (FCA)

The FCA introduced new measures in April 2020 that may help if you have temporary financial difficulties because of coronavirus. The measures:

  • cover personal loans, credit cards, store cards, catalogues and overdrafts;
  •  will not affect your credit file; and
  • can be asked for until 31 October 2020.

If you have been affected by coronavirus, you can ask for a temporary payment freeze on personal loans, credit cards, store cards and catalogues for up to three months. This means that you will not have to make a payment for the time agreed. Your lender will continue to charge interest during the payment freeze, so it is likely that your payments will be higher once the payment freeze has ended. So, if you can afford to make the usual payment (or a part payment), continue to do so.

If you have been affected by coronavirus and already have an arranged overdraft on your main personal current account, you can ask for up to £500 of the overdraft borrowing to be charged at zero interest for three months.

If you are interested in one of these measures, check your lender's website for information. Where possible, use online services to ask for support. You can call your lender, but it may take quite a while to get through. If you haven’t already asked for this support, you have until the 31 October 2020 to do so.

If you have already had a payment freeze for three months and it’s coming to an end

  • If you can now afford to pay your usual payments, do so. You may also need to discuss how you are going to repay any missed payments with your lender. 
  • If you cannot afford to pay your usual payments, let your lender know. They should contact you before your three month payment freeze ends to discuss your situation. You can ask for a further three month payment freeze.

If you have already had an interest-free overdraft for three months and it’s coming to an end

  • If you are still in temporary financial difficulty as a result of coronavirus, let your lender know. You can ask for up to £500 of the overdraft borrowing to be charged at zero interest for a further three months.

See the FCA’s Coronavirus: information for consumers on personal loans, credit cards and overdrafts for more information about the new measures

Other bank debts

If you are struggling to pay unsecured bank debts that are not covered by the new FCA measures, you can still contact your bank to explain your situation.  Each bank will consider what help it may give on a case by case basis. Go to their website to see what help is available. You can also call your bank, but be aware that you may have to wait some time.

If you agree a payment holiday with your bank because of problems caused by coronavirus, it shouldn't negatively affect your credit reference file. This has been agreed by credit reference agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Some banks are also allowing people to access their fixed-savings accounts without a penalty. Contact your bank, explain your situation and see how they can help.

Avoid taking out more credit unless you know that you can afford to pay it back.

If you have debts which are now unaffordable, contact us for advice. While you are waiting to get the advice that you need, you can send your creditors a letter asking them to hold action on your acc​ount​ due to coronavirus​.

Help with your mortgage

The Government has announced that if you are affected by coronavirus and struggle to pay your mortgage, you may be able to receive a three-month payment holiday. This means you will not have to make a repayment for three months. However, interest will continue to accrue during this time.

If you have not yet had a payment holiday, you have until 31 October 2020 to request one. From 4 June, if you have already had a payment holiday and need further help, your lender may be able to offer a further three-month full or part payment holiday. Speak to your lender to see if this may be an option.

  • Your lender will look at your individual circumstances and offer support on a case-by-case basis.
  • You will need to make up the payments that have been deferred; this could be over the remaining term of the mortgage.
  • If a payment holiday is agreed then it will not affect your credit file. However, lenders may review your bank account if you apply for more credit. As a result, in some cases this could affect their lending decision.

If you have other loans secured on your home and it is the right decision for you, you can also ask your lender if they will give you a payment holiday on those loans too. However, please be aware that the FCA guidance does not cover loans that were taken out by a limited company for which you have given a personal guarantee that is secured against your home.

You can also ask your lender for a payment holiday if you have a commercial mortgage, although the situation is more complicated. If your lender agrees to a payment holiday, check that they will follow FCA guidelines. If they are not following FCA guidelines, contact us for advice.

For information on buy-to-let mortgages, see the later Buy-to-let landlords section.

The FCA has also announced that no repossession action should be taken by lenders until 31 October 2020.

In England and Wales, the court service also announced that from 27 March 2020, it will suspend all new and ongoing possession action for 90 days. From 25 June 2020, the suspension was extended for a further two months until 23 August 2020.
 
If you have been sent an eviction notice, contact the court that is dealing with your case to check that the action is being suspended. If it is not being suspended, contact Shelter for advice straight away.
 
If you cannot afford to pay your mortgage or already have arrears, contact your lender as soon as possible to discuss your situation. If you are at risk of repossession and your lender is unhelpful, contact:
 

Information is also available on their websites.

    Help to Buy customers

    The Government has confirmed a possible three month repayment holiday if you have been affected by the coronavirus and have Help to Buy loans.
     
    For more details contact the Help to Buy: Equity Loan administrator on 0345 848 0236.
     
    If the loan was taken out in Wales, you should contact Help to Buy (Wales) Ltd​ on 029 2080 3451.

Buy-to-let landlords

On 18 March 2020, the Government announced the following measures to protect tenants and landlords affected by coronavirus.

  • There will be no new evictions from social or private rented accommodation while the emergency is taking place.
  • New possession proceeding applications through the court cannot be started during the crisis.
  • To protect landlords, the new three-month mortgage payment holiday will also apply to Buy-to-let mortgages. See the earlier section Help with your mortgage for more information about how this works.
Tenants and landlords will be expected to work together to agree affordable payment arrangements once this period is over.
 

Green Homes Grant

 
From September 2020, homeowners and landlords in England will be able to apply for vouchers to make their homes more energy efficient. The grant will help to pay for, or towards, the cost of green improvements such as loft, wall and floor insulation. The grant can cover:
 
  • at least two thirds of the cost (up to £5,000 per household); or
  • for low income households, the full cost (up to £10,000).

In Scotland, landlords may also be able to apply to the Private Rent Sector Landlord (non-business) COVID-19 Loan Scheme. The scheme opened 5 May 2020. It provides an interest-free loan to fund rental income that has been lost for a single property because of coronavirus. For more information about the loan, including eligibility details, go to GOV.SCOT. 

The Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for private landlords and letting agents also has useful information for private landlords in Scotland.

Help if you rent your home

In England and Wales, the Government has introduced temporary laws to protect tenants. From 26 March 2020 until 30 September 2020, landlords must give at least three months' notice before they can start court action to evict you.

From 27 March 2020, the court service also announced that it will suspend all new and ongoing possession action for at least 90 days. The Government has also said that it will extend this protection for tenants for a further two months from 25 June 2020 to 23 August 2020.

If you have been sent an eviction notice, contact the court that is dealing with your case to check that the action is being suspended. If it is not being suspended, contact Shelter for advice straight away.
 

If you cannot afford to pay your rent or already have arrears, contact your landlord as soon as possible to discuss your situation. If your landlord is unhelpful and you need more support, contact:

Information is also available on their websites.

In Scotland, the Housing and Property Chamber​ has postponed all scheduled hearings until 9 July 2020. This means that if a decision to evict you has not already been made, you can't be evicted from your property before this date. If you have a case that has been postponed, you will be notified when you should attend the Tribunal.

The Scottish Government has also passed a temporary law to protect tenants in Scotland during the coronavirus period. In most cases, your landlord needs to give you six months' notice before they can start legal action to evict you. There are some exceptions, such as where a landlord is ending the tenancy due to antisocial and criminal behaviour or because the landlord or their family need to move into the property. More information can be found at Shelter Scotland.

If your landlord is unhelpful and you need more support, contact Shelter Scotland​ on 0808 800 4444.

Discretionary Housing Payment

If you claim Housing Benefit or Universal Credit with help towards housing costs, you may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment. A Discretionary Housing Payment can give you extra money to pay towards your rent. To apply, contact your local council. Check whether you can claim online.

Help with your council tax

Councils in England have received guidance from the Government on how they should use new funding to help households in their area. 

If you currently get help from the Council Tax Reduction scheme (also called Council Tax Support) and are of working-age, you may see your council tax bill for 2020-2021 reduce by a further £150.

  • You do not need to have been directly affected by coronavirus to be eligible.
  • You do not need to apply to the council for this extra reduction. Councils already have details of households that get help through the Council Tax Reduction scheme and should contact you directly.

Your 2020-2021 council tax bill

Some councils changed the months during which they collect council tax payments for the 2020-2021 tax year. Instead of collecting payments from April 2020 to January 2021, some councils are collecting payments from June 2020 to March 2021. This means that if you usually pay your council tax in 10 instalments, the months that you would not pay council tax would be April and May 2020, rather than February and March 2021. Check with your council to see if they made this change.

If you will struggle to pay your council tax, contact your council and explain this to them. 

Councils may give further help if you are dealing with exceptional circumstances.

​In Scotland you’ll usually pay for your water through your council tax bill. However, if you have a water meter then you’ll pay Scottish Water. If you have a water meter and are struggling to pay your bill, contact Scottish Water to see how they can help.

Help from your home energy provider

Energy providers have agreed that the disconnection of credit meters will be completely suspended. Also, if you are self-isolating and unable to top up your pre-payment meter, you can:

  • nominate a third party for credit top ups;
  • have a discretionary fund added to your credit; or
  • have a pre-loaded top up card sent so that your supply is not interrupted.

If you are struggling to manage repayments to your energy provider contact them to see what help they can provide.  New guidance means that your debt repayments and bill payments ​could be reassessed, reduced or paused where necessary.

More information can be found on the GOV.UK website.​

If you are a vulnerable person, you could ask your energy provider to place you on the Priority Services Register. The Priority Services Register can help to make sure that you receive all the appropriate support you need. You can find out who may be classed as vulnerable and what help is available by visiting Ofgem​.

Help from your household water supplier

Water companies have agreed to help customers in a variety of ways because of the coronavirus crisis. Water UK has said that companies are:

  • stopping new court applications on unpaid bills during the current restrictions, and stopping any enforcement visits;
  • actively offering payment breaks or payment holidays for anyone in financial difficulties as a result of coronavirus; and
  • changing payment plans urgently to help with sudden changes in household finances.

    Each water company will have its own scheme. Contact them directly to see what help can be provided. A full list of possible support and more detail can be found on Water UK's website.​

Help from your mobile or broadband provider

Most of the main broadband and mobile companies have introduced a range of measures to try to help customers.

  • Providers will help if you are struggling to pay your bill and make sure you are treated fairly. Contact them if you are struggling to pay your bill.
  • They have agreed to remove all data caps on fixed broadband services. Check with your provider if you are unsure if this applies to you.
  • You may be offered a new package to help you stay connected. Some of these packages include data boosts at low prices and free calls from home phones or mobiles. Contact your provider to see if you could benefit from this.​

​Help with your TV licence

TV Licensing have taken steps to help if you are struggling to pay your TV licence.

  • If you are unable to keep up with payments, call them on 0300 555 0300 to see how they can help.
  • TV Licensing has stopped sending arrears letters to people who have fallen behind on payments.
  • Collection visits by officers have also been stopped.
  • ​If you are in financial hardship and urgently need to stop your Direct Debit payments, call them on 0300 790 6068. If you are unable to get through, cancel the Direct Debit with your bank. You will need to make up any payments that you miss later on.​

TV Licensing has fewer staff answering calls at the moment so it will be more difficult to speak to someone. If you need to make a payment, there are other ways you can try and pay.​

Help from your insurance provider

The FCA has said that insurers should agree to a payment deferral of between one and three months. You can ask for a deferral any time until the 18 August 2020. If your insurer agrees to a payment deferral, your credit reference file will not be affected.

Your insurer may agree to accept reduced payments or change your payment date. Contact your insurer to see how they can help.

Help with other kinds of debt

The FCA has also announced measures to help if you have other types of lending and have temporary financial difficulties because of coronavirus.

Payday loans

If you have a payday loan, your lender should allow you a one month payment freeze. No interest will be added during this payment freeze. After the payment freeze ends, you should be allowed to repay the deferred payment in an affordable way.

Buy-now-pay-later, rent-to-own and pawnbroker debts

If you have a buy-now-pay-later, rent-to-own or pawnbroker agreement, lenders should allow you a three month payment freeze. Interest will continue to be added during this time, so it’s likely your payment will be higher once the payment freeze has ended. After the payment freeze period ends, you should be allowed to repay the deferred payments and interest in an affordable way. This could be longer than your original repayment date.

If a payment freeze is agreed with your lender because of problems caused by coronavirus, it should not negatively affect your credit reference file.

If you have a buy-now-pay-later agreement and your interest free promotional period is coming to an end, your lender can extend this for three months.

If you have a rent-to-own agreement, the length of the agreement can be extended. If you need the items during the period that these FCA guidelines are in place, the items should not be repossessed.

If you have a pawnbroker agreement, your pawnbroker can extend the redemption period for three months. If your redemption period had already passed, the pawnbroker should delay selling the item for three months.

Speak to your lender about the help they can provide if you have been affected by coronavirus.

Motor finance

If you have a vehicle on a hire purchase, personal contract purchase (PCP), or hire agreement and you can’t make your payments because of coronavirus, you can be given a three month payment break. You may also be able to get help if you want to keep the vehicle, but your agreement is coming to an end.

If you don’t want to keep the vehicle, or can’t afford to keep it in the longer term, you may have a number of different options depending on the kind of agreement you have. If you need to negotiate reduced payments, want to keep the vehicle for longer or want to end the agreement early, contact us for advice.

If you have only missed payments because of temporary financial problems caused by coronavirus, your lender should not normally take steps to repossess the vehicle.

Magistrates' court hearings

Magistrates' courts are limiting the number of cases that are being heard. If you have been told to attend a magistrates' court hearing, it is important that you attend. However, to avoid an unnecessary journey, we suggest that you contact the court that is dealing with your case to check whether your hearing is going ahead.

If you have questions about an outstanding magistrates' court fine, you should contact the National Compliance and Enforcement Service by emailing  NCESBCT@justice.gov.uk or by calling 0300 123 9252.

Sheriff court fines and hearings

As the courts have temporarily suspended their counter facilities for the payment of fines, you may need to choose another way of paying. For most fines you can use the court online payment system or automated phone system. However, for penalties that need your driving licence to be endorsed, you will need to send your payment and driving licence by post. For more information, see the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website.

If you have missed payments on a fine and can now afford to pay the arrears, do so. If you have financial difficulties and are struggling to pay, contact a Fines Enforcement Officer straightaway. Call 0300 790 0014 and explain your situation.

If you have been told to attend a court hearing, it is important that you attend. However, to avoid an unnecessary journey, we suggest that you contact the court that is dealing with your case to check whether your hearing is going ahead.

Bailiffs

The rules which bailiffs in England and Wales have to comply with have been updated due to coronavirus. While the coronavirus lockdown restrictions are in place during the ‘emergency period’, bailiffs are not allowed to take control of goods at residential premises or on highways.

The ‘emergency period’ will come to an end on 23 August 2020. This means that bailiffs will be allowed to take control of goods at residential premises or on highways from that date.

Extra support

Food parcels

The Government has started to deliver food parcels to those most at risk from coronavirus. To receive a food parcel you need to have a medical condition which makes you extremely vulnerable to coronavirus. You can register as a clinically extremely vulnerable person on the GOV.UK website.

Free school meals/vouchers

If your child is eligible for free school meals the school should make sure that they continue to provide this. The school may send food parcels or give you supermarket food vouchers during term time weeks. The scheme will now be running during the summer holiday, as well as term time. 

Speak to your child’s school to check that this is being done for you. More detail can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Food banks

If you are struggling to buy food, many food banks are staying open to support people during the coronavirus crisis. However the numbers of sessions are being reduced and you will be given or sent a pre-packed food parcel. You can find your local food bank through The Trussell Trust.

Charitable grants

Many charities offer non-repayable grants to people who are struggling financially. To see if there are any grants which may be able to help you, visit the Turn2us​ website.

Council assistance support schemes

If you live in England, you can apply to your local welfare assistance scheme. Each council runs their own scheme. Vouchers can be given to help pay for day-to-day essentials, such as a hot meal, furniture or household appliances. Contact your local council to see if you can benefit from their scheme.

If you live in Scotland, you can apply for a Crisis Gra​nt​​. The grant can cover the cost of an emergency, such as an unexpected crisis or a gap in your normal income.

If you live in Wales, you can apply for an Emergency Assistance Payment. The payment can help cover the cost of food, clothing gas, electric and emergency travel.

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