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Cost of living: help with your bills

Help with mortgage costs

Mortgage lenders have committed to help customers during the cost of living crisis.

If you are up to date with your mortgage repayments, your lender should allow you to switch to a new mortgage deal without an affordability test. You will need to stick to the same repayment type and term and you won’t be able to borrow more money. Speak to your lender if your mortgage deal is ending soon.

Lenders should also:

  • provide information to help you plan, should your current mortgage rate be ending soon; and
  • ensure highly trained staff can help where needed.

The Mortgage Charter

Most UK mortgage lenders have also signed up to the Mortgage Charter. If your lender has signed up to the charter, they should offer you a wide range of support if you are worried about meeting your mortgage payments because of increased interest rates, or are already struggling to make payments.

  • For example, if you are up to date with your payments, your lender should allow you to switch to interest-only payments for six months, or extend your mortgage term to reduce your monthly payments. They should also give you the option to revert back to your original term within six months. You should not usually need an affordability check and this support should not affect your credit file.
  • From 26 June 2023, you should not be forced to leave your home within 12 months of your first missed mortgage payment unless you agree to do so or there are exceptional circumstances.
  • From 10 July 2023, you should be allowed to lock into a deal up to six months before your existing fixed-rate deal changes. You should also be able to manage your new deal and request a better like-for-like deal from your lender, if available, right up until two weeks before your new term starts.

To check if you lender has signed up to the Mortgage Charter and to see the full range of support that is available under the charter, go to www.gov.uk and search for ‘Mortgage Charter’.

Do you have a second mortgage?

It is unclear whether the Mortgage Charter applies to second charge mortgages. If you have a second mortgage and are worried about meeting your mortgage payments, contact your lender to ask what help is available and how it will affect your credit reference file.

FCA guidance

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has also issued Guidance for firms supporting their existing mortgage borrowers impacted by the rising cost of living.

The guidance shows that lenders can offer a range of support options to help you avoid, reduce or manage payment difficulties caused by the rising cost of living. For example, support options could include temporarily reducing your interest rate, extending the term of your mortgage, allowing you to make interest only payments or agreeing a short-term reduction in your monthly repayments.

Contact your lender to see what support is available if you are finding it difficult to pay your mortgage or think that you are going to have difficulties in the near future. In many cases, your lender can offer you support without completing an affordability test.

Your credit rating will be affected if you no longer maintain your contractual mortgage payments. Your lender should also explain how any support options they offer you will affect your credit reference file.

If you are behind with your mortgage repayments, also see our Mortgage arrears fact sheet.

Help to stay - Wales

In November 2023, the Welsh Government introduced the Help to stay - Wales scheme. The scheme provides help to eligible homeowners in Wales who are finding, or expect to find, it difficult to pay their mortgage.

If you are eligible, the Help to stay - Wales scheme can offer you an equity loan, which is secured against your home. The loan is used to reduce your mortgage borrowing and no payments are made to the loan for the first five years. The aim of the scheme is to make your mortgage payments more affordable and give you time to deal with any financial issues you may be facing.

For more information about the scheme and its eligibility requirements, see the Help to Stay - Wales guidance on the GOV.Wales website, or contact us for advice.

Help with Council Tax

Council Tax Support can help someone on low income pay their council tax. Eligibility will depend on your councils criteria.

If you are struggling to pay your council tax, contact your council to check that you are getting any discounts, reductions or exemptions that you are entitled to. Councils may also give further help if you are dealing with exceptional circumstances, for example, if you are in severe financial difficulty.

If you start to claim Universal Credit, you need to request that you are considered for Council Tax Support when you make your Universal Credit claim. If you currently receive Universal Credit and didn't request Council Tax Support, contact your council to make a claim.

If you are behind with your council tax payments, see our Council tax arrears fact sheet.

Help with energy bills

If you are unable to afford your bill, contact us to help work out what you can afford to pay your energy supplier. Ofgem rules mean suppliers must offer payment plans you can afford. Suppliers can offer:

  • a review of your payments and debt repayments;
  • payment breaks or reductions;
  • more time to pay;
  • access to hardship funds; and
  • advice on how to use less energy.

Energy providers should not disconnect your gas or electric supply during the winter months (October-March) if you or someone in your property is vulnerable. Contact us if you are threatened with disconnection.

If you are a vulnerable person, you could ask your energy provider to place you on the Priority Services Register. The Priority Services Register can help to make sure that you receive all the appropriate support you need. You can find out who may be classed as vulnerable and what help is available by visiting Ofgem.

If you are behind on energy bill, see our Gas and electricity arrears fact sheet.

Help with Phone and broadband

Broadband and mobile phone firms have committed to do more to help customers who are struggling with payments due to the cost of living crisis. They have agreed to:

  • support customers struggling with their bills, including allowing them to move to cheaper packages without charge or penalty;
  • accept manageable payment plans;
  • support customers who may be struggling with the cost of living and to treat them with compassion, understanding and as individuals; and
  • protect the connectivity of their customers known to be vulnerable as a priority.

Contact us to help you work out what you can afford to pay your phone or broadband company.

Many broadband providers have a ‘social tariff’ that limits the cost of phone or broadband for people who receive certain benefits. Ofcom has links to these providers and includes the cost, speed and eligibility criteria for each one. It is worth checking if you are eligible for a social tariff scheme.

If you are behind with your mobile phone payments, see our Mobile phone debt fact sheet.

Help with water bills

The water regulator, Ofwat, has issued guidance for water companies on how their customers pay their bill, access help and repay debts. Water companies should:

  • Offer flexible payment and billing to match customers’ circumstances.
  • Respond efficiently to customer requests to change payment arrangements.
  • Identify and support customers in vulnerable circumstances.
  • Tailor debt recovery strategies and review them for suitability, fairness and empathy.
  • Refer customers to company’s financial hardship fund or other affordability schemes for help.
  • Re-engage with customers over missed instalments and make sure follow up action is proportionate.

You can find the full guidance on the Ofwat website.

If you are behind with your water bill, see our Water arrears and trust fund fact sheet.