Bank customers who require a break from repaying their mortgages or loans because of the impact the Covid-19 crisis is having on their finances will have to apply for one by 30 June, the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland has said.

The BPFI said the deadline has been set by the European Banking Authority.

As a result, the federation is urging anyone who needs a payment break to contact their lender as soon as they can.

The BPFI said 140,000 customers are now on payment breaks. Nearly 80,000 of those relate to mortgages, with almost 36,000 connected to SME loans.

It said banks are now undertaking significant engagement with those whose breaks were issued in March and contacting them to discuss options for when the break comes to an end.

"These include the availability of a payment break extension of up to an additional three-month period for those that continue to be directly impacted by the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic," said Brian Hayes, Chief Executive of BPFI.

To support that engagement the BPFI has published a guide to the process.

"The BPFI guide covers a range of vital information for those who have an existing payment break, including the option of getting a payment break extension," Mr Hayes said.

"It details the different repayment options for borrowers, including the provision of term extensions on mortgages."

The guide also provides advice for borrowers who think their financial challenges may be longer term in nature and the gives guidance on the next steps to take.

In March, the five main lenders in Ireland all agreed to offer a three-month payment break to any customer who was struggling financially as a result of the impact of the coronavirus emergency.

It was later extended by a further three months in recognition of the seriousness of the crisis.

However, a number of bank bosses have since signalled that a further extension beyond the six months is not likely.

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Brian Hayes told RTÉ News at One that the payment break was to give people flexibility, but added there will be no further extension after the initial three-month payment break was extended to six months. 

Where people cannot afford to pay after six months, he said no further extension will be sanctioned but that "alternative arrangements" will be put in place.  

Mr Hayes said borrowers will be contacted shortly to see if they can resume paying their mortgage after three months or need a further three-month extension, an interest-only period or a new repayment plan. 

He said the European Banking Authority has closed the date for applications to be processed before June 30 by lenders across the EU. 

Lenders have clear processes in place for borrowers who get into difficulty and there will be more engagement with people who are struggling to pay their mortages and loans, Mr Hayes said.  

He said there will be engagement, a significant financial assessment and some kind of resolution will be reached involving alternative repayment arrangements.