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Banking

Mortgage repayments: The options open to customers under financial strain due to Covid-19

Mortgage repayments: The options open to customers under financial strain due to Covid-19
Rob Flynn

Rob Flynn

Staff Writer

The many flexible repayment options available will help struggling families and businesses with their mortgage repayments.

As Irish society prepares and reacts to the ongoing developments around the coronavirus, so too are Irish financial institutions making moves to help make customers more financially resilient by raising awareness around the flexible repayment options available on their mortgages.

As you read this a cross-industry coronavirus co-ordination group, chaired by the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI) is working hard and looking at a number of different issues that may impact customers.

The Chief Executive of the BPFI, Brain Hayes said:

“Banks have moved rapidly this week to ensure a wide range of credit, cash flow and supply chain supports are offered to businesses who are trying to manage the pressures arising from Covid-19, while a suite of measures and arrangements for personal customers facing financial challenges have also been made available.”

Following a meeting with Minister for Finance Paschal Donohue, all five retail banks have now agreed an industry-wide payment break for mortgage customers, the first time such an agreement has been made.

All banks are encouraging customers to make contact ‘as soon as possible if they need advice or support’ around ongoing developments.

And with the ever-increasing possibility of loss-of-earnings for a lot of Irish families, we take a look at the repayment options in detail that are available to customers from each of the five main banks here.

So what options should customers be aware of?

AIB

AIB customers who encounter difficulty with their mortgage repayments can apply for a break in payments under one of AIB’s many flexible payment options.

These include a 'payment holiday’, or payment break (see more on this below) whereby customers can have a complete break from payments for up to six months.

Customers have the added option to make interest-only payments for up to 12 months in certain circumstances.

As well as the above, customers can also choose to reduce their monthly mortgage repayments by extending the term of their mortgage with AIB.

As a result of the ongoing threat of the coronavirus, AIB has made additional credit options and supports available to customers, which will be available on a case-by-case basis depending on customer needs.

To find out more, AIB personal customers can consult its Covid-19 webpage.

The country’s largest bank also announced that it was suspending the planned introduction of its maintenance and transactions fees which were due to be implemented from 30th May - read the latest here.

Bank of Ireland

Bank of Ireland (BOI) is also offering mortgage payment breaks for personal customers for up to three months, as well as more flexible arrangements in certain circumstances arising from the coronavirus.

To avail of the options, BOI mortgage customers can find out more from their website above or they can call 01 611 3333.

Similar arrangements can be made for personal loan customers should they need help with repayments and they can call 1850 222 200.

Bank of Ireland also announced it will cease charging customers for contactless payments for the duration of the Covid-19 outbreak, a move that will be very much welcomed by customers.

As a result of the virus, BOI has announced that branches on college campuses and hospitals have all been closed until further notice.

Customers can make contact with BOI on any of the above numbers if assistance is needed as dedicated supports remain in place.

Ulster Bank

As well as AIB and BOI, Ulster Bank is allowing customers to defer mortgage payments for up to three months, saying customers can apply if "your ability to pay your mortgage has been affected by coronavirus" and that "you have consent from everyone named on the mortgage."

The bank has a number of other measures in place, also existing prior to the outbreak, in order to help those struggling with their repayments which include some of the following options:

  • Extending the loan term
  • Temporarily moving to interest-only payments
  • Reducing payments on a temporary basis
  • Postponement of monthly repayments for a defined period of time

If you’re an Ulster Bank customer and want to avail of a payment break you can get in contact on 1850 201 210 or if you would like to find out more simply click here.

Permanent TSB

Following a meeting with Minister for Finance Paschal Donohue, Permanent TSB, along with the five other retail banks officially announced the availability of payment breaks for mortgage customers for up to three months.

Personal customers can avail of the following:

Mortgage loan repayments

  • The bank will work with customers impacted by the Covid-19 crisis to agree appropriate payment break options based on the individual circumstances of the customer
  • Such agreed treatments may include a temporary payment break on loan repayments of up to three months

Day-to-day banking

Personal customers can apply for:

  • An overdraft increase for up to six months
  • A credit card limit increase for up to six months

The CEO of Permanent TSB, Jeremy Masding said:

"Permanent TSB is fully committed to supporting the national response to this crisis and to do all we can to support our customers, colleagues and communities through these very difficult times.

"In addition to maintaining critical banking services for our customers, our aim is to ensure that we facilitate customers dealing with short term financial challenges arising from this crisis. We will work with both personal and small business customers on an individual basis and offer solutions that best suit their circumstances."

Permanent TSB offers customers who are faced with financial difficulties a range of support options and has outlined how to get in contact should customers require help.

PTSB customers can find out more here.

KBC

Along with the other banks, KBC is providing support for personal customers who may be experiencing financial difficulty and will now offer mortgage payment breaks for up to three months.

KBC also has a range of other financial measures to support customers who are facing financial difficulties as a result of the coronavirus. These include:

  • Payment breaks on loans for personal customers for up to three months
  • Free contactless card payments across all personal current accounts 
  • The suspension of all court processes currently in train for a three-month period
  • The establishment of a dedicated KBC team to help customers with any financial concerns or questions and can be contacted on 1850 93 02 35. This is in addition to KBC's normal channels for business and personal customers, which includes 24/7 customer service via phone, live webchat, email and social media and through its hubs across the country

KBC has also announced longer opening hours for its contact centres. 

If you’re a KBC customer and are experiencing financial difficulty as a result of the novel coronavirus all of the relevant information can be found here.

How a payment break works

If you are a mortgage holder and you find yourself adversely impacted by the outbreak of the coronavirus, one option available to you from most banks is the ability to implement a break in your mortgage payments.

In most cases this flexible payment arrangement is used by those who have big bills on the horizon such as education fees or unforeseen medical fees and may need some financial breathing room to pay them off, but in the case of the coronavirus, many families may look to suspend payments while they get back on track financially.

A payment break works by effectively stopping mortgage payments for a period of time, up to six months from AIB and now up to three months from the other banks mentioned above. The suspended payments will then be spread over the remaining mortgage term, so bear in mind, payments will be a little bit higher thereafter to ensure full repayment. Also, you'll end up paying more in interest to your bank than you otherwise would have. 

A payment break usually takes one of two forms, depending on what best suits your specific situation.

1. ‘Moratorium’ payment break – generally this means that your full mortgage repayment is postponed for an agreed period of time so you do not pay any capital or interest. Usually, at the end of this period, you'll return to full capital and interest payments just like before. At the end of the agreed period, your future mortgage repayments will increase so that the loan is fully repaid within the original term of the loan. 

2. ‘Interest only’ payment – as the name suggests you only pay the interest due on your loan during the agreed payment break. You do not pay any capital, which means that your repayments will be less than before but also that your loan balance will not reduce during this period.

The options outlined by all banks and financial institutions are subject to approval. Should you require access to any of the above facilities or have any questions in relation to your mortgage repayments make sure and get in touch with your bank immediately.

Am I eligible for a payment break if my existing loan is in arrears?

In short, yes. Lenders say they are committed to supporting all borrowers – including borrowers who are already financially distressed and have had their loan restructured. 

Will a repayment break affect my credit record?

No. Lenders are working with the Central Bank to ensure that the credit record of those who decide to avail of a payment break isn't adversely affected.

Should I apply for a payment break?

Not all customers will need a payment break and it's important that customers who can afford to continue making repayments should do so – that way debt is not built up unnecessarily.

What's more, not all customers will need the same form or length of payment break and lenders may offer different solutions to different customers depending on the individual circumstances.

Keep in touch

If you have any questions in relation to payment breaks get in touch in the comments below.

As always you can drop us a message over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with any questions.

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