Nationwide implements COVID-19 hardship support package

Jessica Bird

May 22, 2020

Nationwide house prices

Nationwide Building Society has launched a five-point support package designed to help protect the homes and finances of those who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.

The society is offering extended support for people still financially impacted by the outbreak and who may be coming to the end of an initial three-month mortgage payment support period.

Nationwide has welcomed the announcement from the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and proposal from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) that give clarity on how the sector can best support those who continue to be impacted financially due to the outbreak.

The society’s plans may be adapted to reflect final guidance in the coming weeks.

As well as three-month payment breaks for both residential and buy-to-let (BTL) mortgages, Nationwide is also enabling partial payments, such as temporary interest only arrangements.

In addition, no Nationwide mortgage member falling into arrears as a result of COVID-19 will lose their home until the end of May 2021, as long as they work with the society to get their finances back on track.

The five points of the Home Support Package are:

  • A commitment not to repossess any homes over the next 12 months.
  • Flexibility for members in meeting their mortgage payments. Assessments will ensure the best outcome, and timeframe, for people’s circumstances. This could include temporarily moving to interest only payments to minimise the long-term impact on their finances.
  • New three-month mortgage payment breaks for those still in financial difficulty due to COVID-19. In cases where this is not the best route, an alternative will be suggested.
  • Contacting all BTL landlord customers to let them know that if their tenants require a rent payment break due to the impact of COVID-19, they can have a mortgage payment break on the property. This is to ensure benefits are passed on in a way that is fair and helpful to both landlords and tenants.
  • Through its partnership with Shelter, the society will fund more advisers for the charity’s helplines. Nationwide will also support the introduction of new Shelter community engagement officers. The society’s chairman and non-executive directors also voted to donate 20% of their net fees to Shelter from June to December.
  • Payment breaks – partial or full – will be available via Nationwide’s online coronavirus support page. Members already receiving payment support will be contacted prior to it ending and directed online should they require further support. All payment breaks will continue to accrue interest.

Nationwide has also asked government to consider changes to the way housing support is provided, asking that the Local Housing Allowance covers the 50th percentile of rents in any given area, rather than the current 30th percentile.

It is also working with government and other organisations to establish a more consistent and customer-focussed approach to debt collection and recoveries.

Joe Garner, chief executive at Nationwide, said: “There is a real need to reassure people, particularly those on mortgage payment breaks who are worried what will happen next.

“At a time when people are concerned about their jobs, bills and health, we want to do everything possible to ensure they don’t worry about having a roof over their heads.

“As a mutual, founded to help people into a home of their own, this is what building societies have always been about.

“We hope this additional support will provide extra flexibility to those who most need it, to help get them back on track.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Nationwide has been supporting Shelter in its fight against bad housing and homelessness for nearly 20 years now, and we are hugely grateful for their generous donation today, which will help to keep our essential frontline services going when they are needed most.

“Our emergency helpline has already seen a sharp rise in calls from people dealing with a wide range of housing and homelessness problems related to COVID-19.

“We’ve heard from renters who’ve suddenly lost their jobs and cannot make ends meet, to frightened families stuck sofa-surfing when they should be safe at home.

“Nationwide’s vital funding, which includes an extra donation from the society’s chairman and non-executive directors, means we can continue to be there for as many people as possible at this challenging time.

“It will help us to increase the number of expert advisers trained to work on our emergency helpline, and it will also give us the chance to reach out to local communities so that renters can become better informed about their rights.”

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