Britain extends COVID-19 mortgage payment holiday by three months

FILE PHOTO: A woman is seen using her phone from a window of a residential house in Westminster, as the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease continues in London, Britain, April 29, 2020.REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has extended its mortgage payment holiday scheme for homeowners in financial difficulty during the coronavirus pandemic for another three months.

Britain’s finance ministry said more than 1.8 million mortgage payment holidays had been taken up since the scheme was launched in March. It had been due to end in June. Homeowners struggling financially can also choose to make reduced payments.

“Everyone’s circumstances will be different, so when homeowners can pay some or all of their mortgage, they should work with their lender on a plan; but if they are still struggling, I want them to know that help is there,” John Glen, economic secretary to the Treasury, said in a statement.

The Financial Conduct Authority in a separate statement clarified how banks should treat the payment deferrals for accounting purposes, saying they should not automatically assume those using the scheme would default on payments.

Banks could instead use their judgement about whether those using the scheme were likely to be able to resume payments before marking loans as past due under accounting rules known as IFRS9.

The authorities said they were extending the application period for a payment holiday to Oct. 31 for people who had not yet applied for the scheme but might need to. They extended to the same date a ban on repossession of homes by lenders.

Reporting by Kate Holton, David Milliken and Lawrence White; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Edmund Blair