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If you can’t pay your bills because of coronavirus

This advice applies to Scotland

There are things you can do if you're struggling to pay your bills because of coronavirus. This includes things like your:

  • council tax
  • mortgage
  • energy bills
  • court orders
  • tax bill

It’s important you don’t ignore your bills. Speak to the organisation you owe money to - they might be able to help by letting you pay smaller amounts or take a break.

It’s also 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.

Some bills can cause you more problems if you don't pay them. It's worth checking what bills you should pay first.

If you normally have to leave the house to pay your bills

You might have difficulty paying if for example you usually pay in cash or post cheques.

Ask if you can pay your bills in a different way, such as a card payment over the phone or an online transfer. You can also contact your bank for advice about different ways to pay.

Check if something is a scam

Make sure you only use trusted sources of information and help about coronavirus and your debts.

Don’t give money or personal details to anyone you don’t know or trust – for example, if someone knocks on your door and offers to help.

You can check if something is a scam.

If you've got less money because of coronavirus

If you’ve been affected by coronavirus, 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 

Check what benefits you can get if you’re affected by coronavirus

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.

If you’re shielding, register for free deliveries of food and medicine.

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.

You can find your local council on mygov.scot.

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.

You still need to pay your rent. If you’ve fallen behind with your rent, you should start dealing with rent arrears. You can also check if you can get extra financial help

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.

The tribunal has postponed all hearings and case management discussions until at least 9 July 2020. No new eviction orders can be granted before this date.

If you already had a hearing or case management discussion scheduled, the tribunal will contact you to tell you it has been postponed. Read more about tribunal 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 up to six months. This is called a ‘payment holiday’.

You can ask for a payment holiday for somewhere you live or somewhere you’ve bought to let. If your mortgage provider agrees, it won’t affect your credit rating.

It’s best to ask your mortgage provider for a payment holiday on their website if you can. They have to agree to give you a payment holiday 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 holiday.

After your payment holiday you’ll still need to make up the payments you missed, plus interest added during the payment holiday. This means you’ll have to either:

  • pay more each month
  • keep making payments for longer

You can find out more about payment holidays 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

At the moment, your mortgage provider shouldn’t try to repossess your home. They should pause any action they’re already taking until at least 18 June 2020.

Courts have also paused all possession cases.

If your mortgage provider’s still trying to repossess your home, get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you can’t pay your energy bills

Speak to your energy supplier as soon as you can. You might be able to set up a payment plan with them to help spread the cost of your bills.

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

The government have announced you should get extra help if you’re a customer of:

  • BT
  • EE
  • Openreach
  • Virgin Media
  • Sky
  • TalkTalk
  • O2
  • Vodafone
  • Three
  • Hyperoptic
  • Gigaclear
  • KCOM

Contact your supplier 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 you’re a customer of a different provider, you should still ask if they can help. If they refuse, you might be able to switch to a different provider.

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 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.

A moratorium:

  • 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.

Read more about protection from action by creditors on the Accountant in Bankruptcy website.

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. 

Example

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:

DAS Administrator
1 Pennyburn Road
Kilwinning
KA13 6SA

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 paying back a DWP benefit overpayment or budgeting loan

You don’t have to make any repayments until at least 1 July 2020 – this includes payments to debt collection companies.

If money’s normally taken off your benefits or earnings to repay them, this will stop – you don’t have to do anything.

If you normally repay them yourself, you can stop making payments. If you pay by direct debit, you can ask your bank to cancel it.

If you got an advance payment of Universal Credit, you’ll still have to pay this back.

If you can’t pay your credit card bills

At the moment, your credit card company won’t stop your credit card – even if they’ve said they might.

They might also agree to reduce or pause your payments for 3 months.

Check what to do if you’re struggling with credit card bills.

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.

Check what to do if you can’t repay a loan.

If you can’t pay for something you bought on finance

The finance company might agree to reduce or pause your payments for 3 months.

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’. 

Check what to do if you bought something on finance you can’t pay for.

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