COVID-19: Financial Hardship
COVID-19 may have changed your financial circumstances and you may now be experiencing financial hardship. Changes to financial situations can leave us feeling anxious about the economy and our financial wellbeing.
What can you do if you are experiencing financial hardship?
If you have experienced a change in circumstances that leaves you temporarily struggling to meet your repayments, the law in Australia gives you the right to ask your bank to postpone or lower repayments for a period of time. This applies to home loans, personal loans and credit cards.
You may be able change the terms of your loan, or temporarily pause or reduce your repayments. This is called a hardship variation.
Some banks have allowed customers to defer (put off) repayment on their mortgage if they have lost income because of COVID-19. This means the bank allows the customer to temporarily stop their home loan repayments for a set period of time, the deferral period.
If you agreed with your bank to defer your home loan repayments, this allowed you to temporarily stop making your home loan repayments. When your deferral period ends, you’ll need to start making your home loan repayments again. The paperwork you got at the beginning of the deferral will give details of repayments.
If you are at the end of the deferral period and are still having problems repaying your home loan you should speak to your bank straight away. You may be able to get another period of deferral.
What can you do if you are unhappy with how your bank is dealing with you?
If you are finding it difficult dealing with your bank or if they are unwilling to assist, you can make a complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).
AFCA is an external dispute resolution scheme that all banks belong to. AFCA can consider your request and make a decision against the bank that it must follow.
Where can I get help?
If you are experiencing financial or mortgage hardship Legal Aid WA can provide you with free legal advice and practical information to help you. We also have a Mortgage Stress self-help guide on our website that contains information, videos and sample letters you can use when talking to the bank. You can contact Legal Aid WA through our Infoline or use our web Infochat service.
Help and advice is also available from financial counsellors and community legal centres.
Reviewed: 23 March 2022