Cars and COVID, is it all swings and roundabouts?

Following the Prime Minister’s statement last Sunday, a few things are clear:

  • Those who can work from home must continue to do so, with many not encouraged to return to the office environment until at least July 1st
  • Individuals who cannot work from home, such as those in manufacturing and construction, will be returning to work this week, as long as social distancing measures are put in place
  • Use of public transport is strongly discouraged, with capacity for these services being cut by 90% therefore, if you need to travel to work you should do so by foot, bicycle or car

But, when it comes to travel, especially by car, there are, and have been since the start of lockdown, numerous questions and uncertainties around driving, car maintenance and MOTs, all of which are likely to increase as we begin to slowly return to work.

The bottom line

Akin to many other financial relief schemes, the Government have implemented an MOT delay scheme allowing UK drivers to continue driving even with an expired MOT certificate. This is only in effect for those whose MOTs ran out on or after March 30th and the plan is to continue this scheme for the next six months.

While the Government has assured all drivers that their insurance will still be valid during this time, it has strongly pushed the message that all cars driven after their MOT expiry must be roadworthy.

With a lack of clarity around the word ‘roadworthy’ for both driver and insurers, there may be a huge spike in insurance battles as well as numerous policy misunderstandings and disputes.

MOTs are not the only vehicle conundrum many will face; policy changes, the inability to drive because of illness, SORN notices and repayments may all come into question too.

What does roadworthy look like?

First and foremost, the word ‘roadworthy’ can be a little vague; how much noise from the engine is acceptable? How many warning lights are too many? For the untrained eye, knowing when a car is safe or not can be tricky so, ensure that you check government guidelines on car safety and get anything you’re not sure about checked out by your local mechanic as soon as possible.

The fine print

  • Changes to policy

To help ease finances further, those who are reducing the amount they use their cars, keeping them in different places or have had a change of employment status can change these details with their insurance provider to temporarily lower insurance costs. However, it’s important that when and if these details revert back to normal you tell your insurance provider as soon as possible. By not amending this, your policy may be invalid leaving you unprotected if you need to make a claim.

  • Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN)

Individuals who are no longer using their cars at all due to lockdown have the option to SORN the car, a process which tells the DVLA that you are no longer on the road. This means you stop paying both road tax and insurance. However, once a car has a SORN status, it cannot be driven for any other purpose than to or from an MOT test (which won’t be happening during the pandemic anyway!). Failure to abide by this law can cost up to £2500 in fines or even result in prosecution.

  • Can someone else drive your car for you?

The only times someone other than you can drive your vehicle is if said person is a named driver on your insurance or, you have fully comprehensive cover with third party cover included and you have given this person permission. In all other cases, it is illegal for anyone else to drive your car, pandemic or no pandemic.

Repayments

Much like the recent mortgage holiday scheme, some UK drivers also may have the option to take a car payment holiday. This payment holiday is strictly dependant on your car finance firm, some may allow it and others may not but, those that don’t may look for others way that they can help you. If agreed by your car finance firm, this means you can stop repayments for three months but ensure that this has been agreed in full, otherwise you run the risk of fines, interest rate rises or repossession if you do not keep up with your repayments. After this time, all payments along with interest must be paid in full.

Again, much like all other ‘holiday’ schemes, there is potential here to see a spike in mis-selling claims. All finance providers should make you aware of any implications or changes this holiday must cause, they must look fully into your financial situation to ensure you truly need this service and they should highlight all additional interest rates and payments required after the three months is over.

Temporary changes and fairness of claims

No matter how or what your car insurer does in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all information must be given with transparency and clarity with no risk of being misleading, and with the customer at the front of mind. In addition, all insurance claims that are made during this period of lockdown must be treated fairly with all extenuating circumstances considered.

 

If you receive communications that do not have the expected level of comprehensibility, make a claim that you feel is unfairly rejected or are mis-sold any financial schemes and are looking for advice or representation for your claim, Lysander Law have a team of experts on hand who will provide you with a personalised service to your claim. Contact us for more information.