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Bills and budgets: Managing house expenses through the Coronavirus Pandemic

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With the arrival of April, we’re entering the first full month of coronavirus lock down and, for many of us, paying monthly rent, energy and council tax bills just got more complicated. The coming weeks are predicted to be the peak of Covid-19 in the UK. To date, there have been nearly 40,000 known cases nationwide (not yet levelling off), which means that we can predictably expect the clampdown on movement to last through spring. From job loss and furlough to reduced hours, figuring out a practical first step can feel like…a lot, especially when providing for a family or other dependents on a household budget.

Below are a few places to turn for potential relief with bills that may help bring back a sense of control in what seems like an unpredictable situation.

Get in touch with your landlord

If you haven’t already, get in touch with your landlord to discuss your ability to afford rent in April, May and June. A heads up is best. If you’re struggling now, explain the situation and see if an arrangement for later or reduced payment can be reached. When this period ends, renters and landlords will have to work together to establish a reasonable and affordable repayment plan for rent foregone during coronavirus.

Try to maintain a good line of communication with your landlord, and keep clear records and/or notes of what you agree regarding rent payments during coronavirus.

The government announced a package of measures aimed at protecting both landlords and renters in social and private housing impacted by coronavirus.

This means that renters will not be evicted from their homes during this difficult time. However, it does not automatically equate to a rent payment holiday. If your landlord isn’t able to be flexible with rent payments and you risk falling behind, read here how to manage rent arrears.

Ask your energy provider to push back your next bill

For a lot of people, cooking more meals, heating round the clock, and generally just being at home 24/7 means greater energy consumption and, therefore, a bigger bill. If you’re having difficulty paying the additional gas and electricity you’re using, support is available through your energy provider. Ofgem outlines here what to do as a first step.

Government and energy providers made a series of agreements to ensure that vulnerable customers unable to pay would continue to be served through the coronavirus crisis.

Check what your council can do for you

As part of the £500 million Hardship Fund, working age individuals who receive Local Council Tax Support and are impacted by coronavirus will receive a reduction in their council tax bill.

Councils are also able to use funding for other schemes benefitting working age recipients of council tax support. For that reason, contact your local council directly and see what you’re eligible for – the amount of support depends on a number of factors.

Even if you don’t already receive a council tax reduction, call anyway. If your income has been impacted by coronavirus or you recently started receiving benefits, you might qualify.

The coronavirus situation is fast-moving and seems to evolve every day. For more on what we’ve learned so far, check out these articles: