Banks including NatWest and Santander phone lines jammed with customers calling to request coronavirus mortgage holidays

Bank phone lines have been jammed with customers requesting coronavirus mortgage holidays

STRUGGLING Brits trying to request a payment holiday on their mortgage have been left waiting on the phone for hours to the major banks.

The Chancellor announced earlier this week that home owners will be able to take a break of up to three months from paying their mortgages.

The decision gives lenders more flexibility to help customers in financial difficulties.

But it’s also led to an increased demand, leaving the UK’s major banks such as HSBC, NatWest, Lloyd’s Banking Group and Santander struggling to cope.

Frustrated customers have vented on Twitter in recent days, with some claiming they had to wait for as long as three and a half hours.

One Lloyds Bank customer wrote: “I know it’s a difficult time at the moment but I was kept on hold for 98 minutes trying to speak to someone.

“I am self employed with no work until the unforeseen future who is trying to contact someone regarding a mortgage holiday. I need to look after my family.”

While a mortgage customer with NatWest said: “2 hours on hold. I understand how extreme this situation is but please release an online form we can fill in.

“Save everyone alot of hassle. Or a link in our self service accounts so we can tick a mortgage holiday box. Automated message says 90 minutes wait!!!”

And a HSBC customer said: “I have been waiting to get through re a mortgage holiday on the phone.

“Can’t get through for 2 hours. Can someone contact me please?”

Plus, a Santander customer said: “Just been on hold, to Santander for mortgage holiday, for an hour and a half (32 mins to be precise) – eventually hung up!

“What the government says is not happening in practicality! Has anyone else had any luck?”

Not everyone complained about the wait though, as some managed to get through to request their payment holidays.

A customer of Lloyd’s Bank said: “Managed to sort out the mortgage payment holiday for 3 months.

“Felt so anxious doing it and has made things all the more real.

“The adviser at @LloydsBank was excellent though. Took a while to get through (over an hour) but worth it.”

Due to the huge spike in demand, both NatWest and Santander have today rolled out online forms for customers in need of a payment holiday.

Lloyds Banking Group also offers customers the chance to request one online through Halifax and Lloyd’s Bank, while HSBC customers currently have to phone in.

All banks said they’re experiencing a higher number of phone calls than usual.

A spokesperson for Santander told HOAR: “We’re very sorry that this means some of our customers are waiting longer than we’d like to speak with us.

“To assist us in helping those customers who need urgent support, we are asking that only customers who know they are going to miss their next monthly repayment contact us now.

“We continue to find ways in which we can help those who need support the most contact us more quickly, including providing an online form which allows customers to apply for a payment holiday without calling us.”

While NatWest added: For customers phoning to enquire about a mortgage payment holiday, they can now send us their request through our ‘Manage my mortgage’ page on the internet and we will arrange a time to get back in touch to deal with their request.”

A spokesperson for Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Halifax and Lloyd’s Bank, said: “We are trying our best to support those in the most vulnerable situations, so our wait times are higher than usual.

“Customers who are looking to apply for a payment holiday can do so online at Halifax and Lloyds Bank.”

While HSBC said the coronavirus is having an “ever-growing impact” on its staff and that it’s becoming harder to maintain its service levels.

A spokesperson added: “We have already announced two reductions in variable rate mortgages as well as a package of support to help customers affected financially by Covid-19, which includes providing short and long-term assistance to mortgage customers who are in financial difficulty.

“While those solutions will help very many people, we are now also able to provide a payment holiday on their mortgage.

“We are now urgently working to finalise those details.”

We haven’t yet heard back from Barclays, so we’ll update this article once we do.

If you’re considering a mortgage holiday, keep in mind that it may not be the best option if your circumstances are unlikely to change, for example, as your payments will return to normal after the three months are up.

The interest you should have paid will also be added to the total which you owe and will need to be paid later – it does not get wiped off your account.

The borrower will also need to make up the missed repayments in the future, which could be over the remaining term of the mortgage.

If this is the case, then your monthly repayments will be slightly higher than before if you want to pay off the mortgage in the same time.

The best thing to do is check carefully with your lender about how it will work.

We’ve explained how to apply for a three month mortgage holiday if you’re struggling due to coronavirus.

Here’s some more information about what to do if you lose your job due to coronavirus.

And here are your rights to sick pay if you have to self-isolate.