With England going into another lockdown on Thursday, the Treasury and the City regulator have stepped in to offer support for people who are not able to work while businesses are closed down.
Schemes to prevent people falling behind on mortgage and loan repayments, and to help cover their wages, are being extended.
What help is there for workers struggling to pay their mortgage?
The UK government’s mortgage payments holiday scheme, which has allowed householders a six-month payments deferral, was due to end on Saturday 31 October but this has been extended to help people who will not be able to work during lockdown.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is working with lenders on the small print. It is proposing that households who have not yet had a payment deferral will be eligible for two payment deferrals of up to six months in total.
Households that currently have an initial payment deferral in place will be eligible for another for up to three months. Meanwhile, those who have resumed their mortgage repayments after an initial payment deferral will be eligible for another three month payments holiday.
The FCA says it is important that borrowers who can afford to make repayments continue to do so. It is urging consumers not to contact their lender until the enhanced measures are in place. Lenders will soon provide further information.
Under the FCA’s proposals, borrowers would have until 31 January 2021 to request a payment deferral. It is also proposing that no one will have their home repossessed without their agreement until after 31 January 2021.
What about other loans?
Again, the repayment holidays that were due to stop on Saturday have been extended. The FCA says that it wants lenders to offer deferrals for up to six months “unless it is obviously not in the customer’s interests”.
For high-cost short-term borrowing – payday loans, for example – borrowers can ask for a month’s respite if they have not already had a payment break.
The FCA says consumers should not contact their lenders yet and will hear from them once the plans are confirmed.
My employer is going to shut – can I be furloughed again?
Yes. The furlough scheme was due to be replaced by the far less generous job support scheme (JSS) on 1 November. Instead, furlough will continue and will pay up to 80% of workers’ wages – up to £2,500 a month – until December.
To be eligible for the extension, employees must have been on the payroll on 30 October 2020.
I have a short break booked in the UK in November – will I get a refund?
The Competition and Markets Authority has previously stated that refunds should be paid to customers who cannot take up a service because of government regulations.
Despite this, some consumers are expected to lose out. For example, Airbnb is at odds with the CMA’s stance. It has stated that its standard cancellation terms will apply to all bookings made after March, meaning that some people will lose up to half their money. The company keeps its booking fee if the consumer cancels. Better to let the host cancel, in which case you are entitled to a full refund.
I was due to travel abroad – what happens to me?
After the Canary Islands were added to the no-quarantine list last week, November bookings for the destination soared as people tried to grab some last-minute sun. If you are due to fly before Wednesday night, you can still go. Trips that were due to depart from Thursday onwards are off and whether you receive a refund will depend on how you booked the trip.
Those who booked a package tour will have that trip cancelled and will be entitled to a full refund under the package tour regulations.
If you booked your own flight and accommodation, it is looking far less certain. If your flight is cancelled by the airline you can ask for a refund but if it is going ahead you may not get your money back. On Monday, Ryanair announced that it would not be refunding customers who do not get on flights it is still running.
Few travel insurance policies are paying out for the cancellation of trips booked after mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic became a “known event”.
Can I still move house?
Yes. This time the housing market has not been put into lockdown – the housing secretary has said estate agents and removal firms can continue to operate, and tenants and homeowners can still move.