A major bank has announced that for one year, it will cover the mortgage repayments of home loan customers who lost their principal place of residence due to the bushfires raging across the country, paying up to $1,200 per month per customer.
Westpac’s Bushfire Recovery Support Package also includes interest free home loans to cover the gap between insurance payouts and construction costs for consumers who need to rebuild, as well as $3m in funds allocated to bushfire emergency cash grants, of which eligible retail customers can claim up to $2,000.
At the time of writing, the bushfires have claimed the lives of 28 people across the country, with over 3,000 homes destroyed or damaged in New South Wales alone.
“These initiatives are designed to provide practical, on the ground support for our customers, our people and for those who are caring for affected communities,” said Peter King, Westpac’s acting CEO.
The relief package also makes grants of up to $15,000 available to assist small businesses with the cost of refurbishing premises that have been damaged or destroyed during the bushfires.
Westpac has committed to “fast tracked” credit approvals to provide short-term assistance to businesses impacted by the fires, as well as offering 2.83% three-year variable rate, low-interest rebuilding loans.
Further, no foreclosures will be made for three years on any farming businesses in the affected areas, and all volunteer firefighters across the nation are able to access the Disaster Relief Package.
FBAA managing director Peter White has encouraged brokers to be aware that it's not only clients who have lost their properties that are unable to meet their mortgage repayments; while that subsection may be the most likely to automatically speak to their lenders and insurers, there are many others whose properties were not touched by fire but have been impacted in other ways.
“There will be those who have had to evacuate, or who may operate a small business that has seen a dramatic drop in revenue because an area has been blocked off. There will be others who have had to sacrifice their earnings to help friends, family or their community,” White said.
“Lenders are currently allowing people to momentarily stop their repayments, and while each situation is different, they are listening and helping and working with all borrowers.”
According to White, brokers are ideally positioned to have the most impact on and support damaged communities.
“Chances are the bank won’t come knocking on our clients’ doors because they don’t know who is being impacted and who isn’t, but we can knock on those doors,” he said.
“Finance brokers are part of local communities and we know many of our clients and their families personally, so this is a great opportunity for us to serve our clients and repay the trust they have in us.”