Covid19: UK Payment Holiday Extended for 3 months

The UK government has told banks to give more time to millions of people struggling with debts owing to the coronavirus crisis.

Credit card, store card, catalogue credit and personal loan customers will be able to defer repayments for another three months.

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The help was first ordered by the City regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), in April.

Anyone taking advantage of the freeze must still pay back the debt at the end of the deferral period.

This has prompted debt charities to warn of the potential for individuals’ financial problems to simply be stored up for a later date.

The FCA said that if borrowers could resume their repayments they should do so, to avoid getting into more serious difficulty in the future. Banks may also be stricter in who qualifies for the payment deferral, and might only agree to a reduction in minimum repayments.

The regulator stressed that using the payment deferral should not affect a borrower’s credit rating. However, it warned that loan providers did have other ways to check on whether payment holidays had been taken, such as asking for bank statements, when making decisions on whether to agree to credit applications.

Although these extensions are currently proposals, banks only have until Monday to comment and the FCA expects the rules to be implemented soon after.

Help for people with car finance, payday loans, rent-to-own deals, pawnbroking, and buy-now-pay-later agreements will be updated by the regulator at a later date.

Most Banks are currently offering interest free overdraft up to a certain amount with reduced interest rate.

Check for details on your banks website. Most application can be done online.

Source: BBC News

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UK Property sale hits record low

Residential property sales in the UK in April hit their lowest monthly level since comparable records began in 2005, new figures show.

Houses

There were 38,060 transactions in April, according to provisional numbers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

This was less than half the level seen in the same month last year.

Spring is usually a busy period for the property market, but the coronavirus lockdown halted activity.

The government lifted many of these restrictions on the sector in England in mid-May. The total number of UK property sales is slightly less than the previous low when the taps were turned off in the property market at the height of the financial crisis in January 2009.

Source: BBC News

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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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COVID19: UK Government suspends property market till further notice

The housing market was halted on Thursday night by the Government after financial institutions said they could no longer operate properly.

Ministers are discouraging buyers from going ahead with house sales and purchases unless they have ­already exchanged contracts as part of wider efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, saying no one should move unless absolutely necessary. ­

As a result of the pandemic, homeowners trying to sell their properties face a year of misery as the number of buyers dwindles, estate agents close their doors, banks withdraw deals and house prices falling.

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Banks and building societies have agreed to extend mortgage offers where completions have to be delayed as a safety precaution.

Grainne Gilmore, head of research at Zoopla, commented: “The clarity provided by the government announcement is welcome for buyers, sellers and agents who are in the middle of the sales process.

“Agents continue to support their buyers and vendors remotely. But, now that there is some leeway on mortgage offers – with a three month extension from lenders – this will enable some buyers to press pause, and to re-start their purchase once the current social distancing rules are relaxed.”

What does it mean if you’re buying?

You should only consider going ahead with your move in the immediate term if you have already exchanged contracts.

If you have not yet exchanged contracts, the government are advising you to delay doing so.

See the source imageBanks and building societies have agreed to extend mortgage offers for up to an additional three months to enable customers to move at a later date without losing the deal they had lined up.

If your circumstances change during this period or the terms of the house purchase alter significantly, meaning that continuing with the mortgage would put you into financial hardship, lenders have pledged to work with you to manage your finances as a matter of urgency.

What it means if you are selling?

Putting your property on the market will be more challenging than usual, as you are not allowed to have visitors to your home.

As a result, you will not be able to have estate agents come to take photos or carry out a physical market appraisal, while Energy Performance Certificate assessors are also not allowed to visit you.

If your home is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it for sale, but people cannot come to physically view your property.

Importantly, you are still allowed to accept offers on your property during the current period.

In fact, the number of sales agreed between March 16 and March 22 were only 4% lower than a year earlier.

Source: Zoopla Property News

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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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What must a mortgage lender do if a borrower is in arrears

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) considers that a reasonable period for repayment of arrears or a shortfall will depend on the borrower’s circumstances. In some cases, it can mean spreading the payments over the remaining mortgage term.

The lender must not attempt to process more than two direct debit requests in any one calendar month

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A mortgage lender must also establish and implement clear, effective and appropriate policies and procedures to ensure the fair treatment of customers whom the lender understands, or reasonably suspects, to be particularly vulnerable.

If a borrower is in arrears, the lender must consider whether one or more of the following actions would be suitable to help resolve the problem

  • extend the mortgage term;
  • change the mortgage type;
  • defer payment of interest due on the mortgage or sums due under a home purchase plan;
  • treat the payment shortfall as if it was part of the original amount – know as capitalisation and effectively adding the shortfall to the capital owing;
  • make use of any government forbearance schemes to help borrowers with problems.

Please contact your lender as soon as possible if you’re experiencing financial difficulties to get a suitable solution.

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Covid 19 Financial impact: Pension freedom

Over 55 and in financial difficulty due to Covid 19, you can take the opportunity of pension freedom as solution to Covid 19 financial impact.

Pension freedom allows personal pension planholders to take as much cash as they want from their pension fund from the age of 55. This can be an attractive option for those in mortgage difficulty, but there are two key factors to consider:

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  • Only 25% of the fund can be taken tax free, with any excess added to income for the year. This could result in a large (and unexpected) tax liability, which, in turn, could lead to less cash than expected.
  • The planholder’s income in retirement could be significantly reduced as a result of using the pension fund in this way. In addition, because they cannot take cash from their fund before the age of 55, they will have only limited time to rebuild their pension fund for retirement.

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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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