If you can’t pay your bills because of coronavirus
There are things you can do if you're struggling to pay your bills because of coronavirus, for example your council tax, rent, loans and energy bills.
If you’re already in debt
It’s important to get help straight away if you’re in debt, or worried about money. Don’t ignore your bills or letters about money you owe.
It’s also worth speaking to the organisations you owe money to – they might be able to help by letting you pay smaller amounts or take a break.
Some bills can cause you more problems if you don’t pay them. It’s worth checking what bills you should pay first.
Check if you can get extra help or money
You might be able to claim benefits or get more money on your current benefits if:
- you have coronavirus, or you’re following guidance to stay at home
- you’ve lost your job
- or you’re self-employed and can’t get work
- you can’t work because your workplace has closed
Although lots of people are applying for help due to coronavirus, it’s important that you still apply as soon as you can. Don't be put off by longer waiting times.
If you need help with food and energy
Check if you can get help from the Scottish Welfare Fund. You might be able to get a grant to help you pay for things that you need, such as food, gas, electricity or household goods. You’ll need to apply to your local council. You can apply even if you've had crisis grants before. Find details of your local council on mygov.scot.
You can also check our advice about foodbanks and other emergency help.
If you can't pay your council tax
You might qualify for a council tax reduction if your income has dropped or if you started claiming benefits recently.
You should check with your local council to see if you qualify for a council tax reduction or use our check my council tax tool to see if you can reduce your bill.
If you don't think you qualify for a reduction
If you don't think you qualify, it's still worth asking your local council if you can get a reduction or other help with the bill. You should continue to prioritise paying your council tax and your rent or mortgage.
If you're struggling to pay, ask the council if they can be flexible about your payments due to coronavirus. They might agree to a payment plan or to delay taking action against you for missed payments. Check their website for council tax advice.
If you have a property that is unoccupied
If you have a property that has been unoccupied from or after 17 March 2020 because of coronavirus, you might be eligible for an exemption on council tax from 27 May 2020. The exemption applies if the people who were living there before 17 March 2020 were exempt, for example, students. Check with your local council.
Check what help you can get with your bills
Most organisations or people you owe money to should be able to help you by doing things like:
- reducing your payments
- giving you more time to pay
- keeping you connected to their service even if you owe money - for example your energy, phone or internet
Each provider will be different so it’s important to check what help you should get.
If you can’t pay your rent
You should explain the situation to your landlord straight away - they might give you more time to pay.
If your landlord doesn’t offer to be flexible with your rent payments, it’s a good idea to pay as much as you can afford and keep a record of what you discussed.
You should also contact your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau - an adviser can help you explain things to your landlord.
If you can't leave the house to pay your rent
Ask your landlord if you can pay your rent in a different way, like an online transfer. If this isn’t possible, you could try to find a friend or family member you trust to go and pay the rent for you.
Make sure you get a receipt, in case your landlord doesn’t realise you’ve already paid.
If you're worried about being evicted
Unless you live with your landlord, they can't evict you without following the correct legal procedure in either the sheriff court or the First-tier Tribunal, depending on the type of tenancy you have. If your landlord changes the locks or tries to make you leave without a court or tribunal order, this is illegal.
The Scottish government has introduced a new law to protect tenants from eviction if they’re struggling to pay rent because of coronavirus. If you’re behind with your rent, your landlord can only evict you if they give you six months’ notice.
Read more about what to do if you have rent arrears.
If you’re a private-sector tenant, your landlord must also go to the First-tier Tribunal to get an eviction order. The tribunal must consider if it’s reasonable to evict you in the circumstances.
Hearings and case management discussions that were postponed because of coronavirus resumed from 9 July 2020. If you had a hearing or case management discussion scheduled, the tribunal will contact you to tell you when it will take place. Read more about hearings and the coronavirus on the First-tier Tribunal website.
Find out more about how housing is affected by the coronavirus on the Shelter Scotland website.
If you can’t pay your mortgage
If you ask your mortgage provider, they might agree to pause your mortgage payments for 3 months. This is called a ‘payment deferral’.
You can’t get a payment deferral after 31 October 2020 - make sure you ask your mortgage provider before this date.
You can ask for a payment deferral for somewhere you live or somewhere you’ve bought to let. If you get a payment deferral, it might make it harder to get credit in the future, for example a loan.
It’s best to ask your mortgage provider for a payment deferral on their website if you can. They should agree to give you a payment deferral if you can’t pay your mortgage because of coronavirus – for example because you can’t go to work.
If you can, keep making your payments until your mortgage provider agrees you can take a payment deferral.
After your payment deferral you’ll still need to make up the payments you missed, plus interest added during the 3 months. This means you’ll have to either:
- pay more each month
- keep making payments for longer
Your mortgage provider might contact you during your payment deferral or after it ends to work out how you can pay it back. They might help you make a payment plan or offer to add your arrears to your mortgage. You can find out more about dealing with mortgage arrears.
If you still can’t pay at the end of 3 months, you can ask your mortgage provider for a second payment deferral of up to 3 months – they should usually give you one. You can ask to defer all or part of the payments - you can’t get more than 2 payment deferrals. Make sure you ask your mortgage provider before 31 October 2020.
Your mortgage provider might not give you a second deferral if you were already behind with your payments on 20 March 2020, but it’s still worth asking. They should still help you plan to pay the money you owe.
If you’re struggling to make your payments, you can ask your mortgage provider to lower your interest rates so you have less to pay back. They might do this if your interest rates are high - for example if you’re paying back a second mortgage.
You can find out more about payment deferrals on the Financial Conduct Authority’s website.
You can also find out more about dealing with mortgage problems.
If you're behind with your mortgage payments
Your mortgage provider shouldn't start or continue any action against you until 31 October 2020, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
After 31 October, your mortgage provider shouldn’t try to repossess your home if any of these apply:
- your only arrears are deferred payments and you’ve arranged to pay them back
- you live in an area with a local lockdown
- you’d have to break social restriction rules to move out - for example, if you’d need to live with another household
- someone in your household is self-isolating
If your mortgage provider is trying to repossess your home, get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.
If you can’t pay your energy bills
At the moment, your energy supplier won’t disconnect your gas or electricity if you miss a payment. If you’ve got a prepayment meter and you don’t top it up, your energy supply might still stop.
If you call your supplier, you might have to wait longer than normal to speak to someone. If you can, try contacting them online through their website, through social media, or by email.
Find out more about what to do if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills.
If you have a prepayment energy meter
Your supplier will try to help you find ways to keep your energy supply connected if you can’t top up your meter because of coronavirus.
Tell your supplier as soon as possible if you can’t top up. You’ll find their contact details on their website or on your bill.
Check our advice on what to do if:
If you can't pay your mobile, phone, internet or TV bill
You should be able to get help from most providers.
Contact your provider and ask what they can do to help. For example, they might agree to help you by:
- reducing your bill
- giving you more time to pay
- increasing your data or download limit
- moving you to a contract that suits your needs better
If your provider won't help you, you might be able to switch to a different provider. If you owe money to your old provider when you switch, you’ll still have to pay them.
If you work for the NHS
Your provider might be able to give you extra help, for example:
- giving you more data, calls or texts
- upgrading your broadband, if you have to work from home
Contact your provider and ask what they can do to help NHS staff.
If you can't pay your TV licence fee
Contact TV Licensing for help. They can help you:
- change your payment plan
- cancel your licence if you don’t need it
You can check how to contact TV Licensing and what they can do to help on their website.
If you can't pay child maintenance
Tell the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) – check how to contact the CMS on their website.
If you’re struggling to pay your essential living costs, the CMS might agree to let you pay less.
If you can't pay your tax bill
If you're struggling to pay your tax bill, you should speak to HMRC straight away. You can call them on their coronavirus helpline:
HMRC coronavirus helpline
Telephone: 0800 0159 559
Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm
Calls to this number are free.
You can read more about what to do if you can't pay your tax bill on time on GOV.UK.
If you can’t pay for your insurance
If you’re struggling to pay because of coronavirus, contact your insurance provider and explain the situation.
They might be able to help you by:
- removing parts of your policy to bring the cost down - for example, taking out breakdown cover
- letting you pay over a longer period
- not charging you fees for paying late
- pausing your payments for up to 3 months - you'll still have to pay later and you might have to pay interest too
Your insurance provider shouldn’t charge you any fees for changing your policy.
If you paid for your insurance up front and then change your policy to make it cheaper, you should get a refund of the difference.
If your insurance provider won’t agree to help you, you can complain to an ombudsman.
If you can’t repay your benefit overpayment or budgeting loan
If you’re struggling to pay your essential living costs and can’t afford your repayments, contact the DWP’s Debt Management contact centre.
DWP - Debt Management contact centre
Telephone: 0800 916 0647
Textphone: 0800 916 0651
Calling from abroad: +44 (0)161 904 1233
Monday to Friday, 8am to 7.30pm
Saturday, 9am to 4pm
Calls to these numbers are free.
If you can’t repay your credit card, store card or catalogue debts
At the moment, your credit card or store card company won’t stop your credit card – even if they’ve said they might.
If you ask the company, they might agree to reduce or pause your payments temporarily.
If you can’t repay a loan
Your lender might agree to reduce or pause your payments temporarily.
This might be money you’ve borrowed from a bank or a loan company. It could also be a payday loan or money from a pawnbroker.
If you can’t pay for something you bought on finance
The finance company might agree to reduce or pause your payments temporarily.
You might have used finance to buy things like:
- a car
- something for your home - like a washing machine or furniture
Buying something on finance is sometimes known as ‘rent to own’ or ‘hire purchase’.
If you can't pay back money you owe
You can apply for a moratorium if:
- you're worried that people you owe money to might take steps to get the money back
- you're thinking of applying for bankruptcy (sequestration), a protected trust deed or the Debt Arrangement Scheme.
- stops creditors from taking action while you get advice
- protects you for six months but doesn't stop interest or charges from building
- might affect your credit rating.
Creditors and sheriff officers should be sympathetic to money problems caused by coronavirus. They should treat you fairly and follow the Financial Conduct Authority's rules.
If your creditor has sent you a document called a 'Charge for Payment for Money' giving you 14 days to pay the debt in full, you should apply for a moratorium. You can apply for a moratorium yourself, but it's best to get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau first.
After you apply for a moratorium, you must do one of the following within six months:
- get advice
- apply for bankruptcy (sequestration), a protected trust deed or the Debt Arrangement Scheme.
If you don't do either of these things within six months, the moratorium will expire and your creditors can take action again.
If you're in the Debt Arrangement Scheme and can't afford a payment
If you're already in a Debt Payment Programme (DPP) under the Debt Arrangement Scheme and you can't afford a payment, speak to your money adviser. They can arrange a payment break for you.
If you can't contact your money adviser
If you can't contact your adviser, you can apply for a payment break of up to six months yourself. You must apply to the DAS administrator (Accountant in Bankruptcy) for this.
Check if you're eligible
To be eligible for a payment break, you have to meet both of the following criteria:
- your disposable income has gone down by more than 50%
- your circumstances have changed.
A change in circumstances could include:
- a period of illness
- being furloughed or dismissed from work
- earning less money
- going on maternity, paternity or adoption leave
- leaving work to care for a dependant
- the death of someone you shared caring or financial responsibilities with.
Check if your disposable income has gone down by more than 50%
Follow these steps to work out if your disposable income has gone down by more than 50%.
Step 1: Find the shortfall in your income
Take away your new monthly income from the monthly income you had before things changed. This amount is the shortfall in your monthly income.
Step 2: Turn the shortfall into a percentage
Divide the shortfall (step 1) by your original income. Then multiply by 100 to get a percentage.
If the answer is more than 50% and you've had one of the changes in circumstances above, then you qualify for a payment break of up to six months.
Bob was earning £2,000 a month but now is earning £800. This means he has a £1,200 shortfall in income.
Bob divides his shortfall by his original income, then multiplies by 100. £1,200 ÷ £2,000 x 100 = 60%.
Bob's income has gone down by 60%. This is more than 50% so Bob qualifies for a payment break as long as he's also had a change in circumstances.
How to apply
You can apply online or by post.
There's a guide to applying online on the Accountant in Bankruptcy website.
To apply by post, fill in an application form and post it to:
1 Pennyburn Road
After you apply
Your creditors will review your application for a payment break. They have three weeks to approve the break. If they don't agree to it, the DAS administrator will look at the decision and decide if it's fair and reasonable. Once this process is complete, the DAS administrator will contact you to tell you the outcome.
There's more information on DAS and coronavirus on the Account in Bankruptcy website.
If you’re thinking about borrowing money to pay your bills
It’s best to ask for help first from the organisations you need to pay. You might be able to agree a plan with them to help you pay the money you owe.
It’s usually more expensive to take out a loan – you’ll have to pay extra costs like interest.
If you decide to take out a loan, you should:
- compare different deals – check how to get the best deal
- check you can afford to pay the loan back
- check you’re borrowing from an authorised or registered lender on the Financial Conduct Authority website
If the lender isn’t authorised or registered
If they’re not authorised or registered, don’t borrow money from them.
An unauthorised lender might want to charge high interest rates or expensive fees. They might not give you proper paperwork, and might ask to take things like your passport, or a bank card as security for the loan.
Unauthorised lenders are often called ‘loan sharks’. You can report loan sharks on the Trading Standards Scotland website.
If you need an overdraft or you already have one
It’s worth telling your bank or building society you’re struggling because of coronavirus. If you don’t normally have an overdraft, they might agree to let you have one. If they give you an overdraft or you already have one, they should agree not to charge interest on the first £500 for 3 months.
If you’re still struggling at the end of 3 months, ask your bank or building society. They should agree not to charge interest on the first £500 for another 3 months.