Mortgages and rent
The Bank of England's big move of slashing the UK's base interest rate to just 0.1% sent an earthquake rippling through the mortgage market. Obviously, if you're on a fixed-rate mortgage you won't have seen any change, but variable rate and tracker agreements reacted to the rate cut with a dip in the interest charged. Depending on your mortgage, you might have seen as much as a 0.65% drop in your rate, worth perhaps £40/month for every £100,000 you've got left to pay off.
If you don't yet have a mortgage, you're probably going to find the rates being charged on new deals dropping as well. Keep an eye out for what's on offer, and shop around until you find something that works for you.
For those in mortgage trouble, you might still be able to arrange “tailored support” from your loan provider. Depending on your situation, this might mean a short-term holiday from your payments, reduced payment amounts or extending your actual mortgage terms. Obviously, taking a break will increase what you're paying each month after your payments resume (since you'll still have to pay off the full amount plus interest), but it could mean some valuable breathing space in the meantime.
The first thing to do is talk to your provider the moment you realise you'll be struggling. Keep in mind that the type of support you get could end up on your credit report.
You won't generally have to “prove” that the epidemic's the actual cause of your payment problems, and your lender should be able to suggest the options that best suit your situation. For instance, taking 3 months out of your payments might end up making the rest of your mortgage difficult to afford. Similarly, if you're already behind on your payments, a mortgage holiday might not be for you.
For people who rent, it's best not to wait until you're already in deep trouble before talking with your landlord. With a bit of luck and goodwill, you could arrange a more manageable payment plan. At the very least, social renters can’t generally be evicted because of the impact of the pandemic. If you're getting benefits, it's been announced that Universal Credit and housing benefit should cover at least 30% of the low-end rents in your local area.
For those already in over their heads, it's been made tougher for private landlords to evict tenants who are unable to pay during the COVID-19 crisis. Under the new rules, you need to be given at least 6 months’ notice before being kicked out (12 weeks in Northern Ireland). There’s also a ban on bailiffs evicting anyone until the end of May in England (the end of June in Wales). Watch out, though: if you’re 6 months behind in rent with an eviction order on you, the ban won’t cover you.