Updated 25 March 2021
COVID-19 has impacted businesses and people across Australia. Many people have lost their job or had their income significantly reduced. This can make it hard to manage financial commitments like rent, mortgages and debt.
Anyone can have money problems and you should not feel embarrassed to seek help and take action. If you have no income or cannot afford basic needs, there is help at hand – you can find your closest support service on the Ask Izzy website.
If you are falling behind in your financial commitments, you can take steps now to prevent major legal problems later. It is important that you make a good financial plan and talk to your creditors about your financial hardship as soon as possible. Below, we have collated useful information to help you look after yourself and your family financially:
The first thing you should do to manage your finances is to make a realistic plan to manage your debts, seek extra funds and avoid extreme financial hardship. If you don’t fully understand your financial position or know where to start, you can call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 for free financial counselling.
The National Debt Helpline has also published a step by step guide to help you find support and successfully manage your finances during COVID-19 – this is available on the National Debt Helpline website.
Once you have a clear idea of your current financial position, you can take steps to manage your financial commitments and rebuild your finances.
There are temporary Government measures in place to help people avoid eviction if they cannot afford rent because of the COVID-19 crisis.
We have developed dedicated resources to help renters affected by COVID-19.
If you can’t maintain your mortgage payment, you should contact your bank to negotiate a repayment arrangement that is affordable for you.
In response to COVID-19, many banks have announced approaches to negotiating mortgage repayment. As a starting point, you should refer to information on your bank’s website.
The National Debt Helpline has published information about how to approach negotiations with your bank.
If you cannot agree with your bank about how to proceed, you can ask the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) to review your bank’s decision.
The following resource helps you to resolve problems with your bank by going to AFCA.
If you can’t pay your utilities bill or council rates, you should contact your utility provider or local Council to negotiate a repayment option that is affordable for you.
In response to COVID-19, the Australian Government and regulators have set out minimum standards expected of Councils, as well as energy, water and telecommunications providers to negotiate with people in financial hardship.
Under these principles, you should expect the following minimum standards when negotiating with your provider:
If you are unhappy with the options your provider offers you, you can ask them to review their decision in accordance with these principles.
The National Debt Helpline has published a step by step guide to help you get on top of your utilities bills.
We have developed dedicated resources to help you understand how to resolve your problem with utilities provide if you owe them money.
If you live in Victoria and are an eligible concession card holder, you may be eligible for assistance from the Utility relief grant scheme. For more information, have a look at the Utility relief grant scheme web page on the Victoria Government’s Department of Health and Human Services website.
Losing your income may also affect your ability to manage repayments of other debts, for example:
You should consider which debt repayments you should prioritise after your rent or mortgage, before you negotiate a repayment arrangement with your creditors. The National Debt Helpline has published information that can help you prioritise your debts.
Once you have prioritised your debts and loans, you should liaise with your creditors to enter into repayment arrangements that you can afford. This may include:
If you owe a judgment debt at the County Court of Victoria, you can find out how to apply for an instalment order online.
It is always a good idea to have a clear repayment plan between you and your creditor that sets out when and how you are required to repay the loan. Once you have agreed on a repayment plan, it is important that you do your best to follow it to avoid enforcement action by creditors, such as:
Enforcement actions can complicate things and increase your debt because of interest and legal costs. It is always best to take active steps to liaise with your creditor to agree on repayment plans that you can afford.
If your creditor has already commenced bankruptcy proceedings against you, you can find out what this process means by looking at our bankruptcy resources.
Temporary supports are available to help people affected by COVID 19, including:
These resources contain information about steps you could could take if you lose your income because of COVID-19:
This resource was last updated on 25 March 2021. This is legal information only and does not constitute legal advice. You should always contact a lawyer for advice specific to your situation.