I am worried about my debts. What can I do?
Lots of people are worrying about their debts at the moment, so you’re not alone. It may be worth beginning by identifying your debts: work out what you owe and who you owe it to so you’re ready to speak with someone who may be able to give you advice.
A good way to find out what you owe is to check your credit report, where many of your current open accounts are listed – you can do this for free with sites like CreditKarma, Experian and ClearScore without affecting your credit rating.
The Money Advice Service has developed some useful tools about what to do now to stop the situation getting worse.
The popular debt support website Debt Camel also has a useful section on coronavirus and debt, which might help you decide how to deal with any debts you already owe.
I’m behind on paying rent, what can I do?
If you’re in rent arrears and you’re worried about getting evicted, you may want to speak to GMLC’s housing team – take a look at our help and advice with housing for more information or give us a call.
You may be able to negotiate a rent reduction with your landlord while you try to secure a longer-term solution. You could join a tenants’ union, such as ACORN or Greater Manchester Tenants Union, for support with getting a rent reduction from your landlord or to challenge your landlord if you think they are acting unfairly. (Joining a tenants’ union sometimes has a small monthly cost.)
I’m behind on paying my mortgage, what can I do?
Your first step may be to contact your mortgage provider and ask if you can take a payment holiday, or if your mortgage repayments could be recalculated to lower your monthly payment. The Financial Conduct Authority has issued guidance encouraging lenders to show ‘forbearance’ at this time, so this is a good time to seek help.
Can I get any help with Council Tax?
Whether or not you can get help with your Council Tax will depend on your local Council. Some are offering payment holidays or deferred payments, and if your income has dropped you may be entitled to Council Tax Support. Check your local council website for their latest information.
Is there any help available with water, gas and electricity?
If you are struggling to pay your water bill, contact your water supplier – some are agreeing to defer payments and there has been a hold on debt collection through the pandemic. Some energy companies are also offering repayment plans to reduce the monthly cost of your energy, though they are likely to expect payment in full later down the line. Get in touch with them to discuss your situation for help.
What about loans, credit cards and mail order accounts (‘consumer credit’)?
Creditors for many types of debt have been told by their regulator, the FCA, to offer ‘forbearance’ during the Covid-19 pandemic. You may be able to ask for a payment holiday or new affordable payment on your mortgage, car credit, personal loan, payday loans, credit cards or mail order accounts. The FCA has provided some more information about payment holidays and rules about collections here.
The first step is usually to contact the creditor – ask for a payment holiday (so your account is temporarily frozen with no payments due), reduced payments, or for them to delay enforcement action, such as chasing you for payment.
If your debt was unaffordable since it started – as is often the case with payday loans or high-cost short-term personal loans – you may be able to make a complaint about the affordability or validity of the account, which could result in the interest on your debt being written off or a reduction offered by the creditor.
Debt Camel offers a template and advice on affordability complaints to payday lenders here. A large proportion of payday loans were mis-sold because of their poor affordability checks, so it is worth trying this if you took out a payday loan you ever found it hard to pay off, or if you took several in a row over a short period of time.
Citizens Advice offer templates for complaining to a money lender about a range of issues here.
If you’re having trouble with debt, don’t go to loan sharks or take out payday or guarantor loans – these can present themselves as a solution but often become a bigger problem later.
I’m angry about the way money lenders treat people and I want to fight back.
Great! Jubilee Debt Campaign is currently campaigning in Manchester (particularly Salford and Wythenshawe) to oppose harassment by money lenders and bailiffs and to bring debtors together to push back on unfair treatment. If you want to get involved, contact Louie at Jubilee Debt Campaign on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are struggling – get advice. There is free advice available now.
To download the full COVID19 Survival kit click here