If your income has been affected by coronavirus (Covid-19) and you’re worried about keeping up with your rent, Council Tax, utilities and other household bills, help is available.
Need to know
Help for renters
- During the current crisis, your landlord has to give you three months’ notice (or six months in Scotland) before they can start eviction proceedings. This applies whether you’re in social or private rented accommodation.
- If you’re in a buy-to-let property, your landlord can ask their bank for a three-month mortgage payment holiday. They shouldn’t put any pressure on you to meet rent payments during this time.
- If after three months you’re still unable to meet rent payments, your landlord or housing officer should take every step to help you stay in the property including working out an affordable repayment plan.
Help with energy bills
- If you have a prepayment meter and you can’t top up – either because you can’t leave the house or because you can’t afford to – your energy provider must help you find ways to stay connected. These include letting someone else top up for you, sending you a pre-loaded top-up card, or increasing your emergency credit limit.
- If you have a regular (not a prepayment) meter your supply won’t be disconnected during the current crisis.
- Your energy supplier will support you if you’re struggling financially. This might mean they look at reducing your monthly payment amount, give you longer to pay or cancel late payment charges.
Help with Council Tax
- The help being offered varies from council to council. Some are offering payment ‘holidays’ or not chasing arrears.
- If your income has dropped and you’re claiming Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance, you might also qualify for Council Tax Reduction. You have to apply for this separately through your local council. It’s not backdated so get your claim in as soon as possible, even if you don’t have all the paperwork – you can always send it later.
Help with your water bill
- The help available varies depending on which company supplies your water. They might offer you a payment holiday, change your payment plan or move you to a cheaper tariff.
- All water companies are stopping new court applications on unpaid bills and are not carrying out debt collection visits during the current coronavirus crisis.
Broadband, phone and TV
- All the main broadband and mobile phone companies have said they will support customers who can’t pay their bills as a result of coronavirus.
- If you can’t pay your broadband you won’t be disconnected.
Useful to know
- Struggling to pay multiple bills? It’s worth knowing the difference between priority and non-priority bills. Falling behind with your rent, Council Tax and energy bills will have more serious consequences than your phone or TV subscription. What are priority debts?
- If you find a cheaper energy tariff – You can switch energy supplier to get a cheaper tariff even if you’ve fallen behind with your payments.
- Council Tax hardship fund – Councils in England now have a hardship fund to help people who are struggling to pay their Council Tax bills. If you live in Northern Ireland, your rates bill is being delayed and won’t come out until June.
- TV licences for the over 75s – People over 75 were due to start paying for their TV licence on 1 June. This change has now been delayed until August. Watch out for scams around TV licence payments.
- Broadband data caps – If your data is capped on your fixed broadband, this cap will be temporarily removed.
- Keeping in touch – Lots of mobile companies are offering free calls and extra data to help people stay in touch during the current crisis.
Action to take
- Contact your landlord – If you think you’re going to fall behind with your rent get in touch with your landlord or housing officer as soon as possible. They might give you more time to pay, or agree to reduce your rent temporarily.
- If your landlord doesn’t offer you any flexibility: keep copies of emails or notes of your conversations, pay as much of your rent as you can afford, contact your nearest Citizens Advice who will help you explain things to your landlord.
- Speak to your work coach: If you’re getting Universal Credit and pay rent yourself ask your work coach to pay your rent directly to your landlord until you can sort things out. This will ensure your rent always gets paid.
- Prepayment energy customers: If you can’t leave the house to top up your card or key, ask someone you trust to do it for you. If this isn’t possible, or you can’t afford to top up, contact your supplier. They can offer help ranging from increasing emergency credit to sending you top-up cards or keys loaded with credit.
- Contact your energy supplier: If you’re struggling to pay your bill to find out what help they can offer.
- Contact your local council: If your income has dropped you might qualify for a Council Tax Reduction. If you’re struggling to pay your Council Tax bill there might be other help available.
- Contact your water company: If you’re having problems paying your bill contact your water company, ask them what help they can offer you.
- Contact your broadband/TV/mobile supplier if you’re struggling to pay your bills. Make sure they know if you’re elderly or vulnerable. Ask them what help they can offer.
- If you’re struggling with your mortgage, credit card or other loans you can find out more about what help is available during the coronavirus outbreak.
Are you getting all the help you’re entitled to?
This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.