Coronavirus stopped me moving house, now I’m alone with no furniture and just £200 in the bank

A SELF-ISOLATING diabetic was left to live in an unfurnished house weighing only 200 pounds after plans to move into his first home were shattered by the coronavirus outbreak.

Manchester-based lecturer James Martin had just bought property 120 miles away with his husband Max when his doctor told him to go into isolation with type 2 diabetes.

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The couple had already brought all the furniture but a bed and chair to their new home in Carlisle, where Max was building the property.

“I live alone in a house that is practically empty. Most of my furniture, clothes and books are gone.

“It’s the shell of a house. I don’t have a sofa, no TV. We got caught halfway,” James said.

33-year-old James was scheduled to join Max in late April after delivering his notice of termination at work.

But now the two are separated and in financial distress because they have no future work.

“It’s the perfect storm. It’s like everything is frozen, but we still have two houses to light, heat, and pay for water.

“Government support is next to nothing and will only pay a handful of bills and not even food. I honestly don’t know what we’re going to do,” said James.


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Max works as a chef on a seasonal contract from March to November and cannot work due to the sudden closure of restaurants.

“He cannot be on leave because he has not had a contract since the end of November, which is normal in the industry. He is falling through the cracks in government support.

“I’ve been the main breadwinner for years, and I planned to teach and mark professionally on a zero hour contract. But now none of this work is available,” explained James.

The couple now have to pay utility bills in two houses, pay back their £ 400 mortgage and find money for groceries.

You can apply for a universal loan and get an advance, but the money must be paid back.

I’m running out of money very quickly

James is reluctant to use credit cards or loans to pay groceries and bills as he only went debt free 15 months ago after paying off £ 12,000 in debt for six years.

He ran into financial problems after the 2008 recession when his roommate lost his job and they struggled to pay the rent between them.

James used credit cards to pay important bills but couldn’t meet monthly payments. After being denied a personal loan to consolidate his debt, he turned to payday lenders.

    James' house is empty now


James’ house is empty now
    James and Max had planned to move out in late April


James and Max had planned to move out in late April

The final blow came when James was fired from RBS and then fired from his next job at a college where he worked as an industrial relations lecturer.

Since he had been employed for less than a year, he received only a week’s salary and no full layoff.

He reached out to the StepChange charity for help and moved on to a debt management plan.

This enabled him to pay off the debt over a longer period of time and stop the aggressive calls and texts in the middle of the night.

    Everything the couple owns is packed ready to move


Everything the couple owns is packed ready to move
    The British ban means James is stuck in his apartment


The British ban means James is stuck in his apartment

But now he’s afraid of going into debt again.

“My life started moving forward, I was out of debt and I was in the middle of moving. And then the coronavirus happened and I was told to self-isolate.”

“Now the fears are coming back and I have contacted StepChange again.

“Even though I am now debt free, I cannot see how we will not go into debt again,” he said.

James’ rental contract expires in late April, but luckily his landlord has supported him.

“The landlord was very good and says I can extend my stay. But I run out of money very quickly.

“I only have £ 200 in my account, which will take a few weeks. I have no savings from the move.”

What help are banks already offering?

Here are banks doing to help customers during the coronavirus crisis:

  • Barclays: Interest Fee Waiver from Friday March 27th to the end of April. Barclays customers can apply for three month payment leave on their mortgage. You can also switch mortgages from repayment to interest-free mortgages and request a temporary increase in your credit card limit. Penalties for early access to fixed savings accounts have also been removed.
  • Co-op Bank: The bank can waive overdraft fees for some customers and check the interest rates. The credit union states that it has a number of measures in place that can help customers on a case-by-case basis.
  • First Direct: First Direct has announced an interest-free overdraft of £ 250. 39.9 percent for arranged overdrafts. The bank also offers customers early access to fixed income savings accounts with no closing fees, as well as support for customers with unsecured debt by providing respite tailored to individual customer needs. Customers can request increases in credit card and overdraft limits, as well as the option to extend the remaining term of their mortgage or change their interest rate.
  • Halifax: Customers can enjoy an interest-free overdraft of £ 300 from April 6th to July 6th. 39.9 percent from £ 300 as of April 6th. The lender has announced that it will not impose missed payment fees for credit cards, loans, and mortgages. Payment holidays for mortgages and loans are also offered.
  • HSBC: HSBC is offering an interest-free overdraft loan of £ 300 starting March 27, otherwise 39.9 percent. HSBC is offering three month mortgage vacation as well as discounted payments to customers in need. There is also the option of extending the remaining term of the mortgage, changing the interest rates, or converting part or all of the loan to interest-free mortgage agreements. Personal loans and credit cards can be deferred for up to three months. Customers can also access fixed-income savings accounts early and without closing fees.
  • Lloyds TSB: Customers can get an interest free overdraft of £ 300 from April 6th to July 6th. 39.9 percent from £ 300 as of April 6th. It also pauses missed payment charges for credit cards, loans, and mortgages. Payment holidays for mortgages and loans are offered to customers who need them.
  • Metro: Metro Bank is offering temporary relief for overdraft fees and has postponed the growing interest in agreed overdrafts from 15 to 34 percent by July 1. It should come into force in April. According to Metro Bank, customers can contact them if they have problems and they will try to help.
  • Nationwide: Can waive fees and check overdraft rates for some customers. Otherwise 39.9 percent. Nationwide customers can apply for a three month mortgage break and the option to change their current business or change the term. You can also request a three month break from your personal credit and credit card payments or a vacation from your overdraft fees for up to three months.
  • NatWest / RBS / Ulster Bank: Freeze overdraft rates for three months at 19.89 percent. By April 2, the value should double to 39.49 percent. Mortgage and loan repayment can be suspended for up to three months. Customers can also request refunds for credit card prepayments as well as an increased temporary credit card limit.
  • Santander: Customers will be able to enjoy a three-month interest-free overdraft of £ 350 starting April 6th for customers who already have an agreed overdraft. 39.9 percent after April 6, down from £ 300. The bank will investigate each client’s situation and look for ways to assist them depending on their specific circumstances. Support to customers may include the option to defer or reduce repayments due.
  • Starling: Starling offers a mortgage vacation of up to three months and waives all interest expenses for agreed overdrafts during an interest vacation. For customers without an agreed overdraft facility, Starling removes the interest rate and the maximum monthly fee.
  • Tesco Bank: Tesco Bank offers credit card and credit customers a payment break of up to two months. Customers can request additional help by contacting the bank. However, it decides on a case-by-case basis who to support.
  • Virgin Money (Clydesdale Bank / Yorkshire Bank): Customers can apply for mortgage payment vacation as well as rescheduling plans if needed. The lender also offers temporary loan increases.

James is now speaking to his employer to see if his job can be restored and he can be taken on vacation, which means he will get 80 percent of his income.

“We’re still going to pay for two lots of everything and live on a salary and it’s going to be tight, but it won’t be as bad as surviving on universal credit.”

“In the worst case scenario, we’ll see what we can get from the state, what agreements we can make with utility companies, and use loans to pay bills. But I really don’t want to go into debt again. “

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