Banks will let customers defer mortgage repayments during the coronavirus outbreak

NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland mortgage customers affected by coronavirus could defer their loan repayments for up to three months, if they are in financial difficulty.

The banks have said that customer's situations will be looked at on a case by case basis, and various potential options will be matched to them.

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While there is no single "blanket provision", the help that customers could be offered if their finances are in difficulty includes requesting mortgage and loan repayment deferrals for up to three months.

Customers hit by coronavirus could also apply for increased temporary credit card limits and may be able to close fixed savings accounts to access cash with no early closure charge. Those struggling to cope may even request an increased debit card cash withdrawal limit of up to £500.

A spokesman for the banks, which are in the same group, said, "We are monitoring the potential impact of coronavirus across all our customers to ensure we can support them appropriately through any period of disruption.

"We have a strong track record in working with our customers who are affected by disruption outside of their control.

"We understand that there may be circumstances where a personal customer may fall into financial difficulty as a result of the impacts of coronavirus, for instance, loss of income.

"We will look to understand each customer's situation on a case-by-case basis and can offer a number of options to help them manage their finances. We would encourage any customer experiencing financial difficulty to get in touch with us."

What about other banks?

TSB said its mortgage customers affected by coronavirus may apply for a repayment holiday for up to two months. TSB savings customers will be able to waive early closure fees on its fixed rate ISA products and it will allow fixed bond customers to surrender their policies early to gain access to their money.

Credit card customers may request an emergency credit limit increases and current account customers can apply for an increased cash withdrawal limit for up to £500 or more depending on each individual case. TSB business banking customers should contact TSB if they are affected, the bank said.

Barclays said it will also remove penalty charges so people can access fixed savings accounts early for those impacted by coronavirus and enable customers to apply for a temporary increase on their credit card limit.

A statement from Barclays said, "Any customers suffering hardship as a result of Covid-19 can contact our specialist support colleagues if they are experiencing problems making repayments to their mortgage, overdraft, personal loans or credit cards.

"These customers can also access their fixed savings accounts early without paying any penalty charges."

Barclays also has a range of potential measures for business customers, including 12 month capital repayment holidays on existing loans over £25,000 and increasing overdraft facilities.

Santander also said it would look at each customer's situation and explore ways to support them depending on their specific circumstances.

The bank's support for customers includes the option to potentially defer or reduce repayments that are due.

A Santander spokeswoman said: "Santander has a team of experts on hand to support customers who have been impacted by the coronavirus. Anyone who has been affected can talk to us on 0800 9 123 123."

What is a 'mortgage holiday'?

Mortgage holidays are a relatively common agreement between lenders and customers where the mortgage repayments can be reduced or stopped for a period of time - usually up to six months.

Not all mortgages offer the option of a mortgage payment holiday, it depends on the terms and conditions of each lender.

Last week, trade association UK Finance said banks, building societies and credit card providers understand that some customers may be worried about the effect that contracting the coronavirus could have on their finances, for example due to a fall in income or because of unexpected expenses or bills to pay.

UK Finance said support could include offering or increasing an overdraft or allowing repayment relief for loan or mortgage repayments. It said asking for help early is key.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said, "Lenders are reasonably sympathetic to any illness that affects a borrower's ability to pay their mortgage, whether it's coronavirus or something else.

"They may ask for evidence that you are unwell but the message to borrowers, particularly the self-employed who are most likely to be affected in terms of their income, is that any time you are struggling to pay your mortgage, get in touch with your lender.

"Don't bury your head in the sand and hope the problem will go away - it won't."