South Africans are rightly concerned about their finances right now, but it’s vital that you don’t cancel your insurance or default on your insurance premiums, cautions Wynand van Vuuren of King Price.
This will not only put you in a difficult financial situation if something valuable is damaged or stolen, it’ll also affect your ability to get insurance, or any form of credit, in the future, as your credit score will be impaired, he said.
Don’t just stop paying. Bad credit decisions can come back to haunt you later. But, there are several things you can do to make sure you pay the lowest premium possible, especially during lockdown.
“Talk to your insurer now and make a plan in the short term, rather than suffering long term consequences,” said Van Vuuren, who is a partner of customer experience at the insurer.
Defaulting on your insurance premiums will see you being reported to the credit bureau for non-payment, which will negatively affect your credit score.
A credit score is a 3-digit number that helps lenders evaluate how safe or risky you are as a customer.
It’s based on the information contained in your credit report, which is a history of all the loans and credit you’ve ever taken, and how you’ve paid them back, as well as how reliable you are with your other monthly payments.
So why does your credit score affect your insurance premium?
King Price noted that insurance companies use a range of factors to assess your risk and determine the premium you will pay.
For a car, these include the security measures where you park your car; the age, make and model of the car; your age and driving history; your accident and claims history – and your credit score.
“You may not realise it, but your credit score is a powerful predictor of your financial behaviour. It shows lenders and financial institutions how likely you are to pay your bills and default on debts,” said Van Vuuren.
“As such, when it’s combined with other factors, it tells an insurer how risky you would be to take on as a client, and this risk will be reflected in your premium.”
According to insights and data company TransUnion, the biggest influence on your credit score is your account payment history – that is, how you manage your accounts and whether you make the monthly payments on time.
To improve your credit score, focus on paying the full instalment of every bill on time, so you’re offsetting past negatives with more recent positives.
It also helps to maintain a healthy mix of credit – store accounts, credit cards, a home loan, and service contracts such as cell phone accounts – to establish a good credit history.
The bad news is that a negative credit score can take two years to fix, King Price said.
Many pay little attention to their credit score until it’s too late
South Africans are able to access one free credit report every year from the four consumer credit bureaus, noted Kriben Reddy, vice president of TransUnion Africa’s consumer division. He said that just 9% of the 25 million credit-active South Africans, actually access their credit report annually.
Regularly checking one’s credit report and credit score should be part of every South African’s personal financial habits.
“This will inform a person of their credit status, their personal payment history and, of course, the ability to acquire credit when it is needed,” said George Roussos, chief operations officer at African Bank.
He said essentially a credit report is a record of your credit history and payment behaviour and reflects a six – 24-month view on how you pay your accounts. Credit bureaus then calculate your credit score from this as a three digit number to explain your credit behaviour. “Generally, the higher your score, the better,” said Roussos.
With South Africans facing increasing financial hardship, this is a good time to consider your credit worthiness. The lockdown has impacted many South Africans’ earnings – and that can make it tempting to default on payments or to apply for more credit to tide you over.
“But these and other actions may negatively affect your credit score going forward. And that’s important, because you may reach a stage where you have to apply for, say, a loan to fund yours or your child’s education. If you haven’t checked on your credit score first, your application may well be rejected,” said Roussos.
He said one cannot under estimate the value of a good credit score. “It’s your ticket to better interest rates on a loan and being able to plan ahead knowing that you will qualify for some form of credit.”
According to weekly research being conducted by TransUnion, week 2 results (week of 13 April) show that when compared to a week ago, more South Africans are being negatively impacted financially (81% vs 79% last week). On average respondents said they will be short about R7,000 in the near future and expect to run into a shortfall between two to four weeks from now. 88% are concerned about their ability to pay bills and loans.
And yet, said Roussos, “finding a way to service these bills is essential if consumers are to maintain a high credit score.” Roussos says it is a vital piece of information if potential lenders consider before they decide whether or not they will give you credit.
After 70 years in Monterey County, 87-year-old Mary Martinez moved in the middle of a pandemic, evicted from her modest one-bedroom, second-floor apartment at 1118 Parkside St. in north Salinas.
According to her former landlord, Martinez was evicted because she allowed a “violent man” to live with her, violating the conditions of her lease. Martinez said the man is her epileptic nephew.
Advocates say that while evictions like Martinez’s are rarer during the pandemic, landlords are feeling the financial squeeze. Some have sold rental properties to make up for lack of income. That can leave renters out in the cold when their new landlord raises the rent by hundreds of dollars or requires all renters move out before they take over the building.
“I don’t want to leave”
Nearly half the housing units in Monterey County are renter-occupied and of those renters, about half pay 35% or more of their monthly income in rental costs, according to American Community Survey (ACS).
The same data shows people of color tend to be renters rather than homeowners. People ACS data identified as Hispanic, Latino or Mexican –– such as Martinez –– make up the largest body of renters in the county.
Martinez does not deny violating her lease agreement but said her landlord was looking for an excuse to kick her out since March when he bought her building.
She also said she believed her status as a Section 8 recipient made her a target, an assertion her landlord denied.
According to Martinez, he soured on her after her epileptic nephew suffered a seizure in the bathroom, leaving emergency crews to break down the locked door. Martinez paid about $70 to replace the door, she said
In June, she received a 90-day notice to evict.
“I don’t want to leave,” Martinez said through tears during a July interview. Her voice quavered. She sat on her living room couch, her shoulders slumped.
In August, she closed the door to apartment 10 behind her for the last time.
“Keep the house housed”
At the state level, Assembly Bill 3088, co-authored by California State Senator Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), keeps renters facing hardship due to COVID-19 in their homes.
The legislation, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in August, states tenants who have provided qualifying declarations of hardship can’t be evicted before Feb. 1, 2021.
Monterey County, like other counties, passed a similar moratorium early in the pandemic, extending it multiple times to keep it alive until the state legislature could find a solution.
Martinez is not the only person to be evicted or lose their housing during the pandemic. The moratoriums dealt with eviction for nonpayment of rent, not of someone in violation of their lease, as Martinez was. Others saw their landlords sell to new owners who raised the rent an untenable amount.
Far fewer people have been evicted during the pandemic than anticipated, said Joel Hernández Laguna, the lead organizer for Center for Community Advocacy’s (CCA). But in recent months, CCA received a higher-than-usual number of calls about people being forced out of their homes due to rent increases.
“You have to see the other point of view,” said Hernández Laguna, who has worked for CCA for almost nine years. “Some landlords are struggling to make payments on properties they rent out.”
He suspects that resulted in higher property turnover than normal. New owners often stipulate in the purchase contract that all tenants must move out upon sale of the property, or raise the rents so much the current tenants can’t stay, Hernández Laguna said.
“Landlords aren’t able to evict people with the current ordinances so instead are (increasing) the rent,” he said. “Which is another way of pushing them out indirectly.”
Matt Huerta, Director of housing at the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP), said housing stakeholders are raising the issue of eviction and housing in MBEP group discussions.
“Our overarching message has been to keep the housed housed,” Huerta said. “Unless it’s a health and safety problem – in terms of the tenant creating a health and safety problem – everyone should be motivated to prevent a large health and safety problem to prevent evictions that will lead to crowded housing and homelessness.”
Phyllis Katz, directing attorney at California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) of Monterey County, said while CRLA had not seen any eviction cases during the pandemic, an eviction could lead to the same – or worse – consequences for someone.
“People acquire bad credit by being evicted,” Katz said in an email.
That bad credit can follow renters and can result in their wages being garnished to pay off debts or keep them from renting on their own. The cost of applying to apartments can be prohibitive, too.
“It costs $30-$50 for each application for housing,” Katz said. “People stay with relatives if they can, or in their car, if they can’t until they find housing.”
That can put people at risk, Katz noted.
“Families who go live in crowded conditions with another family are more prone to contracting COVID-19, and suffering illness as a result,” he said.
Health experts say this creates a prime environment for the coronavirus to spread throughout a household.
A June analysis by The Californian and CalMatters showed the hardest-hit neighborhoods had three times the rate of overcrowding and twice the rate of poverty as the neighborhoods that suffered the least. The neighborhoods with the most infections are disproportionately populated by people of color.
“People end up in that situation because they don’t want to become homeless,” Hernández Laguna said. “Families are willing to share an apartment complex or bring someone else into their home to pay the rent. One of the consequences of being evicted is having to overshare a property.”
Personal and financial loss
At first glance, you wouldn’t know Martinez is in the latter half of her ninth decade.
Before the pandemic, she walked to church almost every day for services. When she lived in Salinas, she’d walk to a nearby grocery store to purchase food, and carried it home herself, two blocks and up a flight of stairs.
Martinez’s age puts her at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19, should she contract the virus.
An eviction increases the odds she might encounter the virus, as she is no longer able to safely isolate herself, and moved three times in fewer than two months. Her sisters, who hosted Martinez following her eviction, are also at increased risk. Both women are in their 70s.
Martinez eventually moved to Pueblo, Colo. to stay with her younger sister, Esther, 76.
In the midst of all this, Martinez is struggling with the loss of her nephew, Greg Palacios.
Palacios was diagnosed with cancer shortly after his seizure in Martinez’s bathroom. He moved into hospice care and died over the summer.
Martinez cried as she talked about his death. She was unable to visit him while he was in care hospice due to pandemic-induced restrictions on visitors.
Martinez is wrestling with financial concerns as well.
She can’t afford a new apartment without the six weeks’ worth of rent, she told The Californian. She has little in the way of savings – she never married and worked mainly as a babysitter and a housekeeper.
While she hopes to keep her Section 8 status, she doesn’t know how moving out of state will impact her.
Furthermore, Martinez said she did not receive her deposit back when she moved out and was owed two weeks’ rent.
When reached by phone, her landlord introduced himself as “Pete.” He confirmed he had been Martinez’s landlord, but refused multiple times to give his last name, or say how long he had owned the property.
According to Monterey County Assessor records, 1118 Parkside St., the complex where Martinez used to live, was purchased by Ace Organic in March of 2020, which is headquartered in Salinas. An LLC-12 Statement of Information filed with the Secretary of State shows Peter Quinlan King as the owner of Ace Organic.
King told The Californian he worked in conjunction with the Housing Authority to evict Martinez, informing them on “everything, step by step.” He also pointed out that he had multiple Section 8 tenants on the premises.
“Mary had a violent and unauthorized tenant living there, so that was cause for eviction,” King said when reached for comment.
According to Monterey attorney David Brown, who handles civil matters between landlords and tenants, if Palacios had been on the lease with Martinez, it likely would have been unlawful to evict them due to his seizure.
As Martinez paid for the damage done to the door, Brown said, that might have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“I don’t know for sure but…assuming that was the landlord’s motivation, yeah, that would probably violate the ADA,” Brown said.
King declined to comment further on Martinez’s eviction, or if he planned to return her deposit.
Although Martinez reached out to the Housing Authority for help and spoke regularly with her caseworker, she found herself confused as to whether she truly had to move out, or if her eviction notice was just a warning.
She moved out in August but still had doubts at the time of her departure.
Hernández Laguna urged people facing eviction or unanticipated rent increases to reach out to his organization or CRLA for help.
“Seek help,” he said. “There are protections out there for families.”
In Pueblo, Martinez found a new home with her sister Esther, though she doesn’t like the cold that’s begun to settle in for the Colorado winter.
Esther says she hopes Martinez will stay with her. Pueblo had a low rate of COVID-19 compared to the rest of Colorado, but in recent weeks has seen cases rise. Still, Esther said she feels she and Mary are safe from the virus there.
“I think Mary’s going to stay here,” said Esther. “We’ll go to California to visit.”
Kate Cimini is a reporter with The Salinas Californian. This article is part of The California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequality and economic survival in California.
ATLANTA _ Many Black entrepreneurs struggle to get bank loans and professional help to launch new businesses. A new program aims to remove those stumbling blocks.
An Atlanta nonprofit and another business have committed $150 million to the 1 Million Black Businesses effort, which will make loans and provide financial and business advice to Black-owned startups and established small businesses. Atlanta-based nonprofit Operation Hope, which helps consumers improve credit scores, is kicking in $20 million, and Shopify, the online e-commerce is adding another $130 million for the loans and website-hosting services.
Other services firms providing expertise or help include Aprio, an Atlanta-based accounting firm, and First Horizon Bank.
It’s a package of products that many Black entrepreneurs couldn’t get through a bank or credit union, said John Hope Bryant, CEO of Operation Hope.
“A bank won’t lend you money unless you can prove that you don’t need it,” Bryant said. “That’s especially true with minority-owned small businesses.”
Small businesses with Black owners were half as likely to obtain business loans as whites, according to a Federal Reserve survey published earlier this year.
The initiative is the latest effort to help Black consumers and businesses enter the financial mainstream. Earlier this month, a group that includes rapper Killer Mike opened a digital bank aimed at Black and Latino consumers.
Banks and credit unions have tried for years to help Black consumers open checking and savings accounts. The efforts helped, as the number of U.S. households without bank accounts fell to 5.4% in 2019 from 6.5% in 2017, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Monday.
Consumers who own checking and savings accounts typically have access loans with better rates and a wider variety of financial services.
The federal government’s $660 billion loan initiative for businesses hit by COVID-19, the Paycheck Protection Program, also helped few Black-owned businesses, Bryant said. PPP loans were based on a company’s number of employees and its rent obligations. many Black-owned small businesses typically didn’t have enough workers to qualify and are based out of the owner’s residence.
Bryant said a bad credit history may not prevent applicants from receiving a loan.
He hopes more companies will contribute services such as insurance advice or software typically available only to well-established businesses.
Bryant noted that 1MBB is not a charitable organization, as participating companies like Shopify will likely get a pipeline of new business customers through the program.
“This is not pure philanthropy,” he said. “Shopify believes that Black-owned businesses are good businesses if they’re properly supported.”
The final days of October offer a chance to take advantage of outstanding model year-end deals. Most offers end November 2, which means there isn’t much time left to enjoy this month’s best lease deals and deepest new car discounts. We even found incentives that can help those with bad credit buy a new or used car.
Why are small cars bad to lease? Even though smaller cars typically come with lower price tags, that isn’t always the case when leasing. A mix of lower discounts, worse residual values, and smaller discounts can actually make a Nissan Altima cheaper than a Versa despite having an almost $10,000 difference in MSRP.
Shorter-mileage leases. More brands are offering shorter mileage allowances on car leases. Although this is typically used to offer consumers more flexibility, we’ve found cases in which you can end up getting less for your money. If you don’t read all the fine print, this could make comparison-shopping difficult.
$0 down leases. If you’re adamant about now putting down any money on a lease, you’ll love Sign & Drive leases. In addition to requiring no money down, $0 down lease deals can cover your first month’s payment. Even hot sellers like the Honda CR-V Hybrid offer $0 down and as little as $330/month on a lease.