Coronavirus money advice for tenants

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Ethical Lettings Team have been working really hard with all of its tenants to provide advice and assistance with finances at this time. We summarise below all the financial help that may be available to you. If you are experiencing financial difficulty, please make sure you get in touch with a member of our team. We are here to help you as much as we can at this difficult time.

Rent

If you are worried about paying your rent, please let us know as soon as possible. There may be things we can do to assist, arrangements we can make, advice we can give or funds that we can apply to that will make a difference. You should always prioritise paying your rent above all other debts. Falling into rent arrears can be difficult to catch back up with. Notices can be served and you may risk losing your home by falling behind with your rent.

Universal Credit

If you are not currently receiving any benefits and have had a significant loss of income then you can apply for Universal Credit which can also contribute towards your housing costs. If you are considering applying for Universal Credit then please speak to a member of our team who can handhold you through the process.

If you are already receiving Universal Credit and have experienced a change in income then please place a note on the ‘journal’ section of your Universal Credit online account stating the changes and request an advisor contact you. Please let us know about your change of circumstances.

Universal Credit advance payments

If you are in receipt of Universal Credit and you haven’t previously applied for one then you may be able to receive an advance payment. You can apply online via your Universal Credit journal but please remember that these will need to be repaid over a 12-month period normally and will have an ongoing effect on your monthly income going forward.

Working Tax Credits & Child Tax Credits

If you are in receipt of these and have a change of income, please notify them as you may be entitled to larger payments temporarily. If you are considering a change onto Universal Credit, please be aware that you cannot go back to tax credits once you are receiving Universal Credit. If you are considering changing onto Universal Credit, please contact a member of our team. We have software that can model the effect of changing benefits and you will be able to get a good idea of whether or not you will benefit from the change. Please remember that any change onto Universal Credit will stop your existing benefits and Universal Credit will take five weeks for a first payment.

Housing Benefit

If you are currently receiving Housing Benefit and have experienced a change in income please ensure that you notify your local authority housing benefit department about the change so that they can alter your entitlement. Please also notify us at the same time so that we are aware.

Discretionary Housing Payments

If you have rent arrears, an ongoing shortfall in rent that you can’t afford or are being affected by the benefit cap, then you may be able to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment. Our team will be able to advise whether this would be an option for you based on your circumstances and will also be able to help you make the application.

Loans, credit cards & store cards

If you’re struggling to pay loans and credit cards due to the Coronavirus outbreak you can request a payment freeze for up to three months. You must request this from the lender and not just stop paying in order for this to be in place. If you don’t receive their permission to stop paying temporarily they may class it as a missed payment. This can cover personal loans, some credit union loans, credit cards and store cards. Payment freezes should not affect your credit rating.

At the time of requesting a freeze, your lender will explain what this means for you long term. You will have to make the payments in the future, the money will still be due.

Your lender may also charge you additional interest during the time that you are not paying so you will pay more money back than your original loan terms.

Lenders may give you other options than a three-month payment freeze.

After three months, your repayments will restart. At the current time no extensions have been announced to the three-month period.

Payday loans & high-cost credit

If you are struggling to pay any high-interest loans then you can ask the lender to defer payment for one month. Again as with other deferred payments, you should always seek authorisation before missing a payment.

Your lender may also charge you additional interest during the time that you are not paying so you will pay more money back than your original loan terms.

You can make this request to lenders up until 27 July 2020.

Help with other types of credit

If you have a rent-to-own (RTO), buy-now pay-later (BNPL), or pawnbroking agreement, you can request a freeze or extension of up to three months if you’re facing financial difficulties due to coronavirus. For most of these types of agreements you will need to make a request with the provider by 27 June 2020.

Interest-free overdrafts

Banks are offering interest-free overdrafts of up to £500 for customers for a period of three months. You will need to request this with your current account provider so that it is “arranged”. Please remember that after the three months if you are still using your overdraft you will be charged for using it.

Council Tax Support & Council Tax Hardship Fund

If you are currently receiving Universal Credit then you will be entitled to also claim Council Tax Support from your local authority. Most local authorities have online applications via their websites for you to apply. If you are already receiving Housing Benefit then you will automatically already be enrolled into the Council Tax Support scheme.

All local authorities have received additional funding for a Council Tax Hardship Fund. If you are still experiencing difficulty with paying your Council Tax bill after the council tax support has been applied or have council tax arrears then you should ring your local authority and see if you could be assisted via the Hardship fund.

Utilities – gas & electricity

Utility companies have announced some support for anyone struggling to pay their bills. Please speak to your provider in the first instance to find out what’s on offer. You may be able to reduce payments or change onto a cheaper tariff. If you have a prepayment meter and can’t afford to top it up, vouchers may be available, please contact your supplier. If you are unsure who your provider is then please give us a call.

Utilities – water

Water companies have also announced support for anyone struggling to pay their bills because of the pandemic. You should speak to your provider and find out what’s on offer. If you are unsure who your provider is then please give us a call.

Avoid loan sharks

Loan sharks are illegal lenders who can often target people in desperate situations. Please don’t fall victim to these types of lenders at this time. They may seem friendly to start with but borrowing from them is never a good idea. If you feel that you have no other options please talk to us or seek specialist debt advice.

USEFUL PHONE NUMBERS

Ethical Lettings
Phone:
01483 429157
Text: 07803 485185
Email: info@ethical-lettings.com

Ethical Lettings out of hours text:
07523 165956

Money Advice Line:
0800 138 7777

Citizens Advice Helpline:
0344 411 1444