Covid19 financial difficulty & what UK banks are offering

Many banks are offering help to customers in financial difficulty due to coronavirus, by offering mortgage, loans and credit card payment holidays, increasing limits for overdrafts, credit cards and cash withdrawals, waiving overdraft charges and offering other financial difficulty solutions.

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It is recommended to contact your financial provider or lender, first visit their website to explore the various ways you can get help or support if you are impacted financially by coronavirus and can’t afford to keep up with repayments or manage your finance.

Coronavirus help and support UK major banks are offering:

  • Barclays Bank – See the source imageMortgages; Payment holiday of up to three months. Personal Loan; 3 months repayment holiday. Credit card;  No late payment or cash advance fees for the next 90 days starting from 19 March, and you might be able to increase your credit limit to help you in an emergency. Overdraft; No interest between 27 March and 30 April 2020. You don’t need to do anything – it’ll happen automatically. Savings; No penalty charges for withdrawing your money early. Visit Barclays website here for more information and updates.
  • Natwest Bank – See the source imageMortgages; Payment holidays for up to 3 months. Personal Loans; Payment deferrals of up to 3 months. Credit card; Refunds on request for cash advance fees to access cash in an emergency, and you can apply to increase your credit card limit. No late payment fee from 1st April until 30th June 2020, you don’t need to get in touch, it will be done automatically. Overdraft; From Monday 30th March, for 3 months, if you are a personal Banking customer using your overdraft, you will pay less as overdraft interest will be at current rates (Representative 19.89% APR (variable) for most customers) and you won’t pay any fees or charges. Savings; Close and access cash with no early closure charge from your fixed term savings account. Visit Natwest website here for more information and updates.
  • Lloyds Bank – See the source imageMortgages; 3 month payment holiday. Personal Loans; Repayment holiday of up to 3 months. Credit card; Payment holiday for 3 months. If agreed, you won’t need to make the usual payments to your personal credit card. Apply to increase your existing Credit Card limit using internet banking. Overdraft; Automatic £300 overdraft buffer if you have an existing arranged overdraft on your current account. This buffer will be interest-free from 6th April to 6th July 2020. Apply online for new overdraft and existing overdraft limit increase. Savings; Access your savings held in a fixed term account, charge will be waived. Visit Lloyds website here for more information and updates.
  • HSBC Bank – See the source imageMortgages; Payment holiday of up to 3 months. Personal Loans; 

    You can request to defer your next 3 repayments. This gives you the chance to pause repayments for 3 months. Credit Card; You can request a 3-month payment holiday. Overdraft; From 26 March 2020 until further notice, no interest charges on the first £300 of overdraft borrowing. Savings; Access restrictions and early closure fees waived for the Fixed Rate Saver product if you need to access your money.  Customers can still close their Regular Saver account and withdraw the funds if they need to, as normal. Visit HSBC website here for more information and updates.

  • Santander Bank – See the source imageMortgages; Get up to 3 months holiday from your mortgage payments. Personal Loans; Online application forms for repayment holiday will be available soon. Credit card; From 31 March until 6 July, late payments fees and cash advances will be automatically removed. Online application forms for repayment holiday will be available soon. Overdraft; Automatically waive interest on the first £350 from 6 April until 6 July. If you need to add an overdraft to your account further information on this is being prepared and will be shared next week. Savings; Access your money held in Santander fixed rate bonds and fixed rate ISAs before the end of the fixed term, free of charge. Visit Santander website here for more information and updates.

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UK Covid-19: How to apply for government business loan

The government has released more details about the £350bn package of financial support which Chancellor Rishi Sunak has promised to UK business to deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Last week he set out plans to pay employees 80% of their salaries, capped at £2,500 per month, in an attempt to protect jobs.

Two further schemes to help business were announced on Tuesday: a new interest-free Business Interruption Loan Scheme for small and medium-sized firms and a Bank of England finance option for bigger businesses.

How will the Business Interruption Loan Scheme work?

UK-based small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) with an annual turnover of less than £45m can apply for an interest-free loan of up to £5m to help them through Covid-19 related difficulties.

The government will provide a grant payment to cover the interest and initial fees for the first 12 months, and will guarantee 80% of the loan amount to give banks and financial companies the confidence to lend.

Under the scheme, which will initially run for six months, businesses will be able to borrow for up to six years. They will be liable to repay the money in full – the guarantee is for the lenders, not the borrowers.

Will all small and medium-sized firms be able to borrow money?

Not necessarily, Firms will have to prove that they are viable businesses which have been trading successfully, but just need extra support to deal with short term difficulties caused by the current disruption. Some firms may not be successful.

The money will be provided by more than 40 lenders who have signed up to the scheme, including High Street banks like Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and NatWest, as well as more specialist finance companies.

Businesses are asked to contact their own bank first (if they are taking part in the scheme) via the company website if possible, and only approach other lenders if they need to.

The British Business Bank, which is running the scheme, told the BBC on 23 March that it expected money to start flowing “this week”.

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You can read more about how the scheme will work here.

Can self-employed people apply to the Business Interruption Loan Scheme?

Yes, The British Business Bank says self-employed people with an annual turnover of up to £45m can apply under the scheme, as long as they operate through a business bank account, and generate more than 50% of their turnover from trading activity.

This includes sole traders, freelancers, and limited partnerships, operating in all sectors.

The government has already said the UK’s five million self-employed people would be allowed to defer self-assessment tax payments, and would benefit from mortgage payment holidays as well as an expansion of welfare support, including universal credit and Local Housing Allowance.

HM Treasury told the BBC the government was “working hard on further measures to support the self-employed”.

What about help for bigger businesses?

Companies that have a yearly turnover of more than £45m may be able to take advantage of the Bank of England’s new Covid Corporate Financing Facility.

The Corporate Financing Facility is effectively a government promise to buy short-term IOUs from companies which are in sound financial health and have a very high credit rating, but which need help to boost their cash flows.

The IOUs can be for any period between one week and 12 months.

The Bank of England says that eligible companies must have a “genuine business” in the UK, and “make a material contribution to the UK economy”.

Generally they will be based in the UK, or have their headquarters here, and employ or provide services to a significant number of people in the country.

How do big companies apply?

Companies must apply through their own bank in the first instance, assuming it is taking part in the scheme, and need to request funding of at least £1m.

The facility will offer finance to companies on similar terms to those available in the markets in the period before the pandemic.

The government will not publish details of which firms have taken advantage of the scheme, which is due to run for at least 12 months.

Source: BBC News

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TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

UK Covid19 Lockdown: Only emergency repairs allowed, Landlords and Estate Agents told

The latest advice issued today is that although tradespeople can complete repairs at properties if they take precautions, landlords should avoid face-to-face contact with existing or prospective tenants.

The government has told landlords and letting agents that they should not conduct house viewings or complete routine inspections of properties, but has said that their tradespeople can complete emergency repairs.

See the source imageBut confirmation has yet to come through from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government about essential tasks such as gas safety and electrical equipment testing and whether these will be exempt from the lockdown as ‘essential services’.

It is also understood that ministers are considering whether to allow many of the companies serving the private rented sector to continue doing their work if a property is owned by someone working in frontline health and emergency services.

Until yesterday industry organisation Gas Safe Register was recommending to landlords that they book inspections by an approved engineer as soon as possible if their renewal date was within the next two months.

The organisation says that following the lock-down announcement last night, it is urgently seeking guidance from the Cabinet Office and the Health and Safety Executive about whether residential property safety inspections will be deemed ‘essential services’.

Also, landlords who are refurbishing properties can continue their work as construction sites have also been given the green light as essential service, it was confirmed this morning.

But all this advice from government remains just that – guidance; the necessary legislation to make it an offence to ignore the rules has yet to make its way through parliament, although this is expected to be achieved at any moment.

One grey area is whether landlords can help tenants move into or out of a property; there are a large number of outstanding rental tenancy contracts that were signed and paid for up-front before the Coronavirus shutdown, and now lockdown, gripped the nation.

Source: LandlordZone

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Dennis Bebo – MSC, BSC, DEA, CeMAP

TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk

Louis Vuitton to use perfume production lines to start making hand sanitiser

Louis Vuitton owner LVMH will use its perfume production lines to start making hand sanitiser to protect people against the coronavirus outbreak.

The luxury goods maker says it wants to help tackle a nationwide shortage of the anti-viral products across France.

“These gels will be delivered free of charge to the health authorities,” LVMH announced on Sunday.

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France has now seen 120 deaths from the coronavirus as the pandemic spreads.

“LVMH will use the production lines of its perfume and cosmetic brands… to produce large quantities of hydroalcoholic gels from Monday,” LVMH said in a statement.

The factories normally produce perfume and makeup for luxury brands like Christian Dior and Givenchy.

The French luxury conglomerate also owns well-known brands such as champagne maker Moet & Chandon, watchmaker Tag Heuer and jeweller Bulgari.

“LVMH will continue to honour this commitment for as long as necessary, in connection with the French health authorities,” the company said.

France has closed its restaurants, cafes and non-essential stores in an effort to combat the virus, which has infected an estimated 165,000 people and killed more than 6,000 worldwide.

Governments across the world have called on manufacturers to help make products that are running low during the virus outbreak.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to ask UK engineering firms on Monday to shift production to build ventilators for the NHS.

In China, at the peak of its coronavirus outbreak in February, electronics giant Foxconn switched some of its production from Apple iPhones to make surgical masks.

Source: BBC News

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Business rate hits struggling UK High Streets hardest leading to more closures

Finding a new retailer for a prime spot in Blackpool town centre used to be easy.

In the 1980s and 1990s, firms would have been fighting over the keys to 18-22 Victoria Street, a large, modern two-storey unit directly opposite the shopping centre. Not any more.

Until last month, the property had been rented to Topshop and Topman. But their owner, Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia group, walked away when the lease came up for renewal. His shops have been struggling to keep up with the competition, and dozens, up and down the country, are being closed.

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“We are having difficulty attracting any interest, never mind a national retailer,” says Paul Moran, a ratings surveyor whose company, Mason Owen, is tasked with finding a new tenant.

Business rates, he says, were a factor in Arcadia’s decision to pull out, and they’re now a big barrier to someone else moving in.

“The first thing tenants look at are their outgoings. And when they see the rates bill, they will be put off by that. Normally you’d expect to be paying 50% of your rent in rates, but the rates bill in this shop is dramatically higher than that.”

With retail in turmoil, pressure is growing for change. So what are business rates and why are they a problem?

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Business rates are a kind of council tax for commercial property. All sorts of premises have to pay them, from offices, warehouses and pubs, to power plants, train stations and shops.

Bills are worked out based on the government’s estimate of how much the property would cost to rent on the open market. Businesses have to pay the tax regardless of whether the space makes any profit or not.

As a rule of thumb, your business rates bill is now typically half of your rent. That’s a big financial burden in itself for retailers with lots of shops. But many of our national chains aren’t even being charged the right amount to begin with. They’re paying millions of pounds more in rates than their rents would imply.

Properties get revalued every few years by the government to make sure the occupiers are paying the correct sums. Some bills go up and some go down. The last revaluation was in 2017.

For towns like Blackpool, this should have been good news because retail rents had collapsed. Their business rates bills should have dived as a result, bringing some relief to a town grappling with too many empty shops and years of government austerity.

But here’s the problem. Changes in bills, both up and down, are phased in gradually over several years to help businesses adjust. It’s like a shock absorber, and it’s called “transitional relief”.

The system is good news if your bills are going up, but not so good if you’re in a property due a big reduction. It’s a bit like being told you’re due a tax cut, but your bill will only be cut incrementally over five years, and you may never get the full reduction.

It works like this because the government wants to make sure it receives the same amount in business rates in real terms, or adjusting for inflation, each year. So rate rises and decreases must balance. This is an England-only policy.

And it’s the largest stores occupied by big chains that are the most affected. Blackpool’s 18-22 Victoria Street is a good example.

Source: BBC News

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TA DenEco Consultancy – www.deneco.co.uk