Your finances and COVID-19

Introduction

You may be worried about falling into financial difficulties during COVID-19. For example, if your income drops due to COVID-19 or you have unexpected expenses, you may find you don’t have enough to cover your usual outgoings.

This document answers some of the questions you might have around paying your bills and meeting other financial commitments.

If you had a COVID-19 payment break which has ended you should contact your lender to see what your options are. Lenders must deal with your case taking into account your individual circumstances. You should talk to your lender as early as possible – see What support can I get from my bank? below.

What financial supports are available?

If your income drops due to COVID-19, you may be entitled to income supports. You can also see our document on your employment rights during COVID-19 restrictions.

  • If you are sick and cannot work: Find out what your employer’s position is on sick pay. The Government has introduced a number of temporary measures to help you if you have to take time off work to self-isolate or if you are ill. You can get more information on Illness Benefit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • If you cannot work because you have to take care of children or dependents: First of all you should find out what your employer’s position is on leave to look after children. The Government has asked employers to be as flexible as possible in allowing staff time off to look after their children or other members of their families.
  • If you have no work or reduced hours: You may be eligible for support from the Department of Social Protection (DSP) or your employer may be able to continue to pay you under the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme. You can get more information on the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment and on social welfare supports and COVID-19.

What to do first if you have lost income

If you have been affected by a loss of income or think you will be in the near future, you should try to take the following steps:

  1. Check to see what financial supports are available, depending on your own situation (see above).
  2. Develop a short-term budget for a period of 3 months to give yourself a better understanding of money coming in and money going out and identify any shortfall. The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) website has a budgeting tool and a Household Budget Sheet (pdf).
  3. When you prepare your budget, focus on priorities – food, utilities, accommodation, phone and broadband connectivity, medical care and expenditure on your children or dependants.
  4. If, after you have developed a budget for the next 3 months, you think you are going to have a difficulty in making payments or repaying loans you should contact your creditors by email or phone. It is fine to contact by phone but you should always follow up in writing (see What support can I get from my bank? below).
  5. Creditors are aware that COVID-19 is going to impact on people’s income. They should be willing to work with you to reschedule over the short-term, where this is necessary based on what you can afford to pay. It is important to get in touch early.
  6. If possible, try to avoid borrowing more as a solution to a drop in income. Where you can, avoid high-cost credit like moneylending loans.

Which outgoings should I prioritise?

If your income drops due to COVID-19 you may find you don’t have enough to cover your usual outgoings. Here are some steps you can take:

Step 1: Focus on priority living costs, you should prioritise spending on food, medical care and utilities to prioritise your health and wellbeing.

  • Food: You can get recipes to plan and get best value for your money in this MABS resource (pdf)
  • Medical costs: You should monitor and follow the health advice from the HSE
  • Utilities: You should continue to make payments on utilities such as gas and electricity to avoid disconnection. If you are eligible and not already on the vulnerable customers register, you should register now by contacting your supplier.

Step 2. Make a list of all your debts and bills - your debts might include, for example:

  • Mortgage or rent
  • Credit card
  • Overdrafts
  • Loans
  • Hire purchase payments
  • Utilities such as phone or internet bills
  • Payments to Revenue

Make a list of who you owe money to and how much your debts or bills are each month. Make sure you can pay for your priority living costs before you prioritise payments of other bills and debts. You can use the MABS Household Budget Sheet (pdf).

Step 3: Prioritise your payments - work out which debts you need to pay first after prioritising food, medical and utility costs. Some debts are more important than others. Generally, these are where creditors have extra powers to, for example, repossess property or evict you.

  • Mortgage payments: if possible, you should continue to pay your mortgage. If you don’t think you can make the full repayment due to a drop in income you should contact your lender as soon as possible. You may be able to avail of a payment break on your mortgage. You should maintain the maximum payment you can afford towards your mortgage.
  • Rent payments: this is a priority because you want to maintain payments to support your tenancy. If you are having problems meeting your rent payments, contact Threshold, the national housing charity, which provides information and advice to people in private rented housing. You can read about Renting and COVID-19.

Step 4: Contact your creditors if you feel that you may fall behind on your payments.

What support can I get from my bank?

In March 2020, the 5 retail banks (AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC, Permanent tsb and Ulster Bank), along with their representative body the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) announced a series of measures to support people and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures include non-bank mortgage lenders and credit servicing firms.

The measures included:

  • A COVID-19 payment break for businesses and personal customers. The payment break could be for up to 6 months, starting by 30 September 2020.
  • A simplified application process to make it easy for businesses and personal customers to get support from their bank.
  • Measures to ensure that COVID-19 application for a payment break would not affect your credit record.
  • Deferral of court proceedings for up to a maximum of 6 months from March 2020.

The Central Bank of Ireland's COVID-19 Consumer FAQ has information on banking and COVID-19, including payment breaks.

How did the COVID-19 payment break work?

A payment break is also known as a temporary deferral of payment, payment holiday or moratorium. It is an agreement with your lender allowing you temporarily to stop your monthly mortgage or loan repayments.

The closing date to get a COVID-19 payment break was 30 September 2020.

Lenders offered the following types of payment breaks:

  1. ‘Moratorium’ payment break – this means full loan repayments stop for an agreed period. Once this moratorium period has finished, future loan repayments on the mortgage or loan increase. This happens because the loan must be repaid in full during the agreed term.
  2. ‘Interest only’ payment – you only pay interest on the loan during the agreed period. Your monthly repayments will be less during this period. However, because you are not paying any capital (the amount you borrowed), your loan balance will not reduce during this period.

Will it impact on my overall cost of borrowing?

You will still have to pay the unpaid interest and capital repayments (known as deferred or postponed payments) at a later date. It is likely that your lender will spread deferred payments over the term of your loan. This will result in an increase to the cost of credit on your loan. This means that when your repayments start again they will be for a higher amount as your lender will add the deferred payments to your overall loan balance and keep the term the same. The shorter the term left on your loan or mortgage, the larger the increase in your monthly payments, once the payment break is over.

It is possible some lenders could consider increasing the length of your mortgage or loan term so that your repayment amount can stay the same.

Will it impact on my credit record?

If you agreed to a payment break with your lender under a COVID-19 application, your credit history will not be affected.

If you agree to restructure your mortgage repayments after your payment break has ended, this will appear on your credit record.

The Central Bank has more information on how payment breaks will be specially recorded on your credit record.

Can I get another payment break after the 6 month ends?

After 30 September 2020, no new COVID-19 payment breaks will be granted.

Do I have to start making repayments again after the payment break ends?

Your repayments start automatically once the payment break ends. If you are able to, you should start making repayments. If you don’t, your loan could be classified as in pre-arrears or arrears. Missed repayments will also impact on your credit record.

What happens if my situation has not improved by the time the payment break ends?

You should look at your financial situation by preparing a budget. This will help if you need to talk to your lender about revised repayments.

If you are still finding it hard to make repayments, you should contact your lender to discuss your options. It is important that you engage with your lender at this point to find what suits your circumstances best.

Your lender will work with you to discuss if you can afford to resume full or reduced repayments. Lenders have a number of alternative repayment arrangements which may be available to you once the COVID-19 payment break ends. These arrangements can include:

  • Payment breaks (the terms of which may differ to COVID-19 payment breaks)
  • Other arrangements, such as interest only.

The lender must follow the rules set out in the Central Bank’s Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (for mortgages) and Consumer Protection Code (for other loans).

You can find more information on the options available in:

If my financial circumstances improve later can I change my repayment plan?

If your circumstances change you should contact your lender to talk through the repayment options available to you. For example, you may be able to shorten the term of your mortgage or increase repayments if your circumstances improve.

Can I get any support from my landlord?

Read about the supports and protections for tenants in Renting and COVID-19.

What support can I get from my utilities supplier?

To help you remain connected to your electricity and gas supplies, domestic disconnections are suspended during the current Level 5 restrictions.

There is no change to the emergency credit level for prepaid (Pay As You Go) gas meters.

You can read about the measures to protect customers during COVID-19 and get advice on what to do if you have difficulty paying your utility bills, on the website of the Commission for Regulation of Utilities.

Can I get any support from Revenue?

If you have overpaid income tax or Universal Social Charge (USC) because of being laid off, any refund due to you will be administered by your employer and paid to you through payroll. Refunds will be repaid to your employer through Revenue’s COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme. You should contact Revenue directly if you run into, or are facing difficulty in meeting a tax repayment or underpayment.

Revenue will work with you to resolve your payment difficulty on a case-by-case basis.

Self-employed people

It was announced in Budget 2021 that the tax debt warehousing scheme will be extended to taxpayers who self-assess for income tax that are adversely impacted by Covid-19. Impacted taxpayers who cannot pay their 2019 balance and preliminary tax for 2020 can defer payment for 12 months.

If income for 2021 is also at least 25% lower than income for 2019, the balance of 2020 balance and 2021 Preliminary Tax can also be warehoused. Debts that are warehoused are subject to 0% interest for 12 months. After this 12-month period, a reduced interest rate of 3% per annum will apply and no surcharge will apply. More detail is available from Revenue.

Protect yourself from COVID-19 scams

Scams come in many forms and can result in you losing money or giving away personal information. During the COVID-19 pandemic, fraud and other scams are increasing. Find out how to recognise, avoid and take action against scams.

Page edited: 30 March 2021