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Taxpayer-owned bank RBS will allow people affected by the coronavirus outbreak to defer mortgage and loan repayments for up to three months.

TSB and Lloyds said they would also allow a mortgage window, and the banks said savers could close fixed-term savings accounts without charge.

This is designed to allow people to access cash if they need it as the impact of the virus is felt.

Banks are also announcing extra support for affected businesses.

Mortgage help

Cases of mortgage repayment holidays are being taken on a case-by-case basis, and the length of any suspension can vary between banks.

Other support for individuals facing financial difficulties owing to the virus includes:

  • Refunds on credit card cash advance fees
  • The option of applying for an temporarily increased credit card borrowing limit
  • Asking for an increased cash withdrawal limit of up to £500

The measures are similar to those already in place for people facing financial difficulties.

“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,” a spokesman for RBS said.

“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.”

UK Finance, which represents the major banks, said that all banks would consider increasing overdrafts or allowing repayment relief for loan or mortgage repayments for those affected by the virus.

“We would encourage customers who think they may be affected to contact their provider as soon as possible to discuss the support available to them,” said its chief executive, Stephen Jones.

Offering to let personal customers put off paying the mortgage for three months is inherently un-commercial – the sort of thing that would seriously damage your credit record if you did it without agreement. Similarly offering to convert capital repayment loans into interest-only loans for up to a year will cost the banks money.

Because they are expensive, the measures raise practical questions – above all, how will the banks establish that customers are truly affected by the virus rather than other factors? A doctor’s letter? They haven’t answered that question yet.

Before taking up any such help, customers, business or personal, would be wise to get it in writing from the bank that it won’t harm their credit records.

Changes to mortgage agreements in some way mirror the situation in Italy, one of the areas most affected by the outbreak.

With significant restrictions on the population in place, Laura Castelli, Italy’s deputy economy minister, said mortgage payments would be suspended across Italy.

Lending to businesses

RBS said on Monday that it was offering more flexibility over loans to businesses.

Other banks are following suit. Barclays said it was offering 12-month capital repayment holidays on existing loans over £25,000, and would also offer extended or new overdraft facilities to business customers.

“Our network of relationship managers has been reaching out to SMEs across the UK to see if they require additional support during this time, as we do regularly when we see any events which may have an impact on our clients,” said Ian Rand, chief executive of Barclays Business Banking.

“Barclays is ready to help, whether that is with managing cash-flow or any other support, and we encourage any customer who needs guidance to call us or contact their relationship manager.”

Lloyds Banking Group said it would be open to requests from small businesses for overdraft extensions and other support.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51817947