The Debt Respite Scheme, also known as ‘breathing space’, launched on 4 May 2021. This scheme gives people or sole traders experiencing problems with their debt the right to legal protections from the organisations they owe money to. 

Here at Santander, we’re fully on board with the scheme and we’ll do everything we can to support our customers when they enter breathing space on their account(s). 

This page may help answer any questions you have about breathing space. We’ve cut through the jargon to make it really clear what the scheme is about and how it might help you and your finances. 

If you’re experiencing financial difficulties and want more information on other ways in which we or independent organisations may be able to help you, please visit our help with managing my money page.

The Debt Respite Scheme

The Debt Respite Scheme helps people receiving independent debt advice about problem debt. It gives an amount of time to put a plan in place to get their finances back in control. During this time, which is known as ‘breathing space’, you’ll have legal protections from the organisations you owe money to. 

There are two types of breathing space: a standard breathing space and a mental health crisis breathing space. A standard breathing space is available to anyone with problem debt and lasts up to 60 days. A mental health crisis breathing space is only available if you’re receiving mental health treatment. It lasts for as long as you’re receiving treatment, plus 30 days. There’s no time limit on this type of breathing space.

To get breathing space you must be receiving debt advice from an independent debt advice provider, with the aim of agreeing a long-term solution for the money you owe and to get back on track with repayments. During your breathing space, you’ll still have to keep up with your monthly payments and stay within any agreed overdraft limit (where applicable). 

A breathing space can only be started by:

  • a debt advice provider who is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to give you debt advice 
  • a local authority (where debt advice is provided to residents).

If you think breathing space might be something that could help you, you’ll need to speak to a debt advice provider. You can find some on our independent help and support page. 

If you’ve spoken to a debt advice provider and you’ve both agreed that breathing space is right for you, you don’t need to do anything else. It’s their responsibility to let us know which account or accounts they want us to apply breathing space to.  Once we’ve received their notice, we’ll update our records and systems, confirming you’re in a breathing space. 

Your debt advice provider will tell you what your responsibilities are and also let you know what you can expect from us, as your lender. You can find more information about this in the sections below. 

During breathing space

Once we’ve received notice from your debt advice provider, we’ll take a look at the details they’ve sent and update our systems. Then we’ll send you a letter confirming the date that the breathing space has started and which account(s) we’ve updated.

During your breathing space, you’ll still have to keep up with your monthly payments and stay within any agreed overdraft limit (where applicable). This will have been explained to you by your debt advice provider. 
Based on the type of product(s) you have with us, breathing space will differ slightly from one account type to another. The table below gives you more information.

 

Santander overdraft (including Business Banking current account and Corporate current account)

  • From the date we confirm your breathing space has started, we’ll stop charging you interest on your overdraft. 
  • We’ll also stop any charges related to the overdraft, but you may still be charged fees that are not related to this, such as account fees. 
  • Fees which you incurred before the start of your breathing space will still be taken from your account.
  • Your current overdraft limit may be reviewed, and the limit may be reduced.
  • If you’re a Business Banking or Corporate customer and your overdraft renews during your breathing space, we may take the arranged overdraft annual fee. We’ll refund this to your account by the time your breathing space ends.

Santander credit card (including Business Credit Card)

  • From the date we confirm your breathing space has started, we’ll stop charging you interest and default fees on your credit card. We’ll also stop charging you any account fees you’d normally pay.
  • We’ll block your credit card temporarily, meaning you won’t be able to use it. 
  • You still need to make your monthly minimum payment, which is set out in your statement. If you have an existing Direct Debit, it won’t be cancelled.
  • Fees which you incurred before the start of your breathing space will still be added to your account balance.
  • Your current credit card limit may be reviewed, and the limit may be reduced.

Santander loan (including unsecured personal loans, unsecured business loans, Bounce Back Loans, Corporate Bounce Bank Loans, corporate loans)

  • From the date we confirm your breathing space has started, you may still see interest applied to your account. Any interest paid during your breathing space will be refunded once your breathing space ends. This refund will be used to reduce the outstanding balance on your loan. 
  • You still need to make your monthly loan payments. If you have an existing Direct Debit, it won’t be cancelled.
  • Interest which you incurred before the start of your breathing space will still be added to your loan balance.
  • If you’re a Business Banking customer with a Bounce Back Loan, and you’ve chosen the Pay As You Grow – Interest Only repayment option, any interest you may see applied to your account will be refunded at the end of your breathing space.

Santander mortgage (including commercial mortgages and corporate mortgages)

  • From the date we confirm your breathing space has started, we’ll stop charging you interest on the arrears on your mortgage. 
  • You still need to make your monthly mortgage payments. If you have an existing Direct Debit, it won’t be cancelled.
  • We’ll stop any charges related to the arrears amount, but you may still be charged fees which you incurred before the start of your breathing space, including any service fees or legal costs.

Alliance & Leicester mortgage (including commercial mortgages and corporate mortgages)

  • From the date we confirm your breathing space has started, you may still see interest applied to your account. Any interest paid during your breathing space will be refunded once your breathing space ends. This refund will be used to reduce the outstanding balance on your loan.
  • You still need to make your monthly mortgage payments. If you have an existing Direct Debit, it won’t be cancelled. 
  • We’ll stop any charges related to the arrears amount, but you may still be charged fees which you incurred before the start of your breathing space, including any service fees or legal costs.

While in breathing space, the protections you have mean that we’re not allowed to contact you to request payment of any debt you may have with us (aside from the regular contracted payments you’re still required to make). We’ll make every effort to ensure that we don’t write to you to chase for repayments but we’re not always able to stop some of our communications.

During your breathing space, you’ll also receive some communications from us that we’re legally required to send you (for example, your statement).

Coming to the end of breathing space

We’ll write to you when your breathing space ends. This letter will contain important information you need to know at the time. If you’ve got any questions before you receive the letter, please contact your debt advice provider.

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