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Home away from home: A guide for those who fled the UK during the coronavirus pandemic

By Mike Ryan, Chief Executive, PACK & SEND

The current coronavirus pandemic caught many of us by surprise, with a sudden shift to remote working and restrictions on our movements.

But for many of those temporarily staying in the UK, like international students and employees on working visas, it meant a rushed return home before the country locked down. For some, there wasn’t even time to pack up their lives before they left.

That’s why Mike Ryan, Chief Executive at PACK & SEND, has put together his advice for those who fled the country suddenly, amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Leaving home

For many of those forced to up sticks and leave the UK before the nationwide lockdown, it meant leaving behind their home away from home.

Luckily, the UK government has put help in place for renters who’ve been affected by the pandemic.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 means landlords must now give renters at least three months’ notice before beginning a legal eviction process, even if they can’t afford to pay rent bills.

For those looking to return to the UK when the lockdown measures ease up, this gives them more time to sort out living arrangements and organise a move once they’re back.

And for those who left the country for good, it gives them time to arrange to get their belongings back.

While students who received their maintenance loan are still required to pay for their accommodation next term, it’s worth checking the tenancy agreement for a break clause or contacting the landlord or accommodation manager to see if they can agree a reduced rent rate while they’re not in the property.

 Money matters

For those who left the country without closing any UK bank accounts, there’s no need to worry. Closing a current account is simple, even from abroad.

In some instances, if you’re planning on returning to, or visit the UK in the future, it may be worth switching to an international account. This lets you transfer money between your overseas accounts without the usual fees. However, these often require a large initial deposit sum.

If you’re not returning, closing the account is simple. Firstly, pay off any outstanding charges and make sure your balance isn’t negative. Then simply log into your online banking, select the ‘close account’ option and follow the instructions.

Some banks may also require you to phone or email them to confirm the account closure. Any money left in your account will be sent to you by cheque, so make sure to update your address before closing the account.

If you’re worried about the impact of closing a bank account on your credit score, don’t panic. Credit scores don’t reflect your savings or investments, just your ability to pay back what you owe. So, closing your account will not affect your credit score.

 Send it back

For those who left in a hurry, they may be worried about getting back any belongings they left in their UK accommodation.

However, hope is not lost. Shipping specialists can arrange for belongings to be sent safely and securely across the world, to wherever you need them.

If you’ve got friends or family who are still in the UK, ask for their help with getting your belongings back. If someone can help the packaging company access your property, they’ll take care of the rest – safely packing up your belongings and storing them until they can be sent back to you.

And if you live in managed accommodation, like student halls, this can be arranged with the building concierge or security instead, for convenience.