Council Tax, Mortgage & Rent Payments and Utility Bills During Lockdown

We hope you are well and able to get the supplies of food and medication that you need. If not, you can ring Surrey's helpline 0300 200 1008 to get help but please note that this is not for medical issues.
A lot of people have lost income because of the coronavirus crisis. If you are unfortunate enough to be one of those, then the rest of this email may be helpful.

So, what happens about paying the council tax, mortgage, rent and utility bills? Sadly you cannot just cancel your direct debits and cancel the payments … however, you may be able to defer them. Advice on how to do this is set out below.

Council Tax
Council Tax, for those paying monthly is paid in ten instalments from April to January with no payments in February and March. The first instalment for the new year will be due in April.

Council Tax provides the money that pays for services to the most vulnerable people in our community, which is particularly vital at the moment. Our District and County Councils thus ask you to continue to make your Council Tax payments as usual if you are able to, to help us support your local neighbours, friends and family.

Our Councils, however, recognise that some residents will find it very difficult to make Council Tax payments in the current climate and understand this. If you are unable to make your Council Tax payments, contact the District Council by email or phone 01306 885001.

It is important to let the District Council know if you cannot afford to pay an instalment and agree a revised payment plan. If you simply miss an instalment, the whole amount due for the rest of the year can become payable in one lump sum (ie the ability to pay by instalments can be withdrawn).

If you are now on reduced hours, have lost your job or your work has stopped, the Mole Valley District Council Benefits Section may be able to provide help towards your Council Tax. This help is given when applying for Council Tax Support. For more information, see here.

From April 2020 a new Hardship Fund will also provide help to working age households already receiving Council Tax Support and who are most affected by the Coronavirus. For more information, see here.

Mortgage Payments
Mortgage payments still have to be made but can be deferred.

Homeowners and buy-to-let landlords who are up to date with their payments can apply from a three-month payment holiday (a deferral of payments, not a cancellation of payments) on their mortgage. Payment holidays are available if you are concerned about your ability to meet your mortgage repayments, for example due to a loss of work or other changes in your circumstances or those of your tenants. You apply for the payment holiday by contacting your lender and self-certifying that your income will be directly or indirectly affected by the coronavirus. Your lender will not require you to provide any documentation or undergo any affordability tests.

After three months, your lender will contact you to assess your circumstances and agree on a manageable way for you to make up the deferred payments.

Rent Payments
Rent payments still have to be made but if rent payments are missed no legal action will be taken for three months.

Emergency legislation has suspended new evictions from social and private rented accommodation at the present time and no landlord is able to apply to the Courts to start possession proceedings until a tenant has missed rent payments for at least three months.

If, after three months, you still cannot pay the rent, the landlord should take every step possible to ensure that the tenant continues to live in their home and will be expected to take into account a tenant's financial circumstances to try and work an affordable repayment plan before they start any proceedings.

If you live in social housing such as run by Clarion or Southern, your tenant support officer should be working with you to work out an affordable repayment plan.

If you are living in a buy-to-let property, your landlord will be able to apply for the three-month mortgage payment holiday if you are experiencing financial difficulty. So they should not put any pressure on you to meet rent payments during this time.

Water Bills
Water companies in England and Wales have put extra support in place if you are worried about paying your water bill because you've lost your job or had your income cut because of coronavirus. You will need to speak to the water company direct and the support offered will depend on your circumstances.

Gas and Electricity Bills
If you are unable to pay your gas or electricity bill, you will need to speak to your gas and electricity provider. They will be able to tell you about ways you can make affordable repayments and they should also check if you're on the best tariff for your needs.

Universal Credit
Universal Credit is available for those who need support but it does not apply to anyone with savings over £16,000 and is tapered for anyone with savings between £6,000 and £16,000. It also takes five weeks for the first claim to be processed. Applications for Universal Credit are made online.