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My brother booked his wedding and reception at the Vu in Bathgate for 5 June. Now with guests cancelling on them because of the virus, they have asked if they can postpone the event until 2021 or 2022. He’s been told that they can’t and will forfeit the full fee if they cancel. He’s currently out of work because of the pandemic and has a newborn baby, so they can ill afford this.
AG, London

Happily for him the Vu has now changed its policy and is offering couples with weddings booked from now until the end of June the chance to postpone without charge to a suitable date in 2020-21. However, it’s still hosting weddings for as long as gatherings are permitted by the Scottish government. This is the kind of crisis wedding insurance is for, but couples who have not already bought a policy may find they are too late. A number of firms have announced they will not accept any new applications. Even those who have a policy may only be covered if their wedding is cancelled for actual infection rather than fear of infection, and some insurers specifically exclude cover for law changes that affect the big day. That means a future government ban on large groups would not qualify policyholders for a refund.

I am 60 and not yet retired. I have a pension pot from previous employment that has fallen by £8,000 this week to £64,000. Is four years enough time for it to recover from this and further slides? Or is there sense in converting to annuities?
DM, Manchester

It’s certainly alarming to watch investments in freefall, but pension schemes do factor in financial volatility. Many schemes move funds into less risky options such as gilts and bonds as customers near retirement, which means they will take less of a hit than stock market investments. You should check to see what type of funds your pension is invested in.

It’s those who invested their retirement nest egg privately who may have to postpone retirement until markets recover, or resign themselves to a reduced income, according to Charlotte Jackson, head of pension operations and consumer protection at the Money and Pensions Service.

It’s crucial to get independent advice before rushing into anything, however desperate the headlines. You can call the Pension Advisory Service on 0800 011 3797 or book a free appointment to discuss your options with Pension Wise. Usually, face-to-face discussions of up to an hour are offered, but in the current climate it will have to be by phone.

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If someone has life insurance and dies of Covid-19, will the policy pay out, or will this be classed as an “Act of God” and exempt the insurer.
SQ, Epsom, Surrey

An understandable question since insurers are notorious for passing the buck to the Almighty when it comes to natural disasters. If you have already taken out the policy you will almost certainly be OK, since most cover infectious diseases. However, the coronavirus outbreak has triggered panic buying of life insurance and anyone still at the application stage will probably find the ground has shifted. Premiums are calculated according to your health and medical history, so any underlying conditions which put you particularly at risk may cost you more – or cause your application to be rejected. You may also be asked about your recent travels.

We have just moved out of our rented flat, which was then professionally cleaned. On the last day of our tenancy my partner developed a cough and so we are now following government advice to self-isolate. Our landlord is asking that we foot the bill for a further deep clean and to pay for the new tenants to spend a night in a hotel. I am a bit surprised at this. Viruses aren’t mentioned in our tenancy agreement.
RH, Croydon

You can bet they will be after this. Since no one saw this coming, we’re in uncharted territory and making up the rules as we go along. The lettings agency trade body Arla Propertymark reckons you should foot the bill. “The tenants have been prevented from moving in to their new home due to no fault of their own, or the landlords. Therefore, they need to be put up somewhere until the property becomes available,” says chief executive David Cox. “Consequently, these costs need to be covered by the existing tenants and these two costs are legitimate deposit deductions.

“This is why we’re calling on government to ensure urgent action is taken to support those who have been financially burdened by the impact of coronavirus.”

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However, Samantha Jenkins, a solicitor with DAS Law, takes the opposite view, pointing out that tenants are required to leave a property in the same condition as they found it. “Assuming the property was handed back to the landlord in a clean condition, a landlord is not able to hold the tenant liable for the cost of professional cleaning, nor of rehoming a new tenant,” she says.

“There are currently no regulations which would suggest that the legal position differs simply because a tenant has any of the symptoms connected with the coronavirus.”

The trouble is, if you refuse to pay, the landlord could withhold the deposit, in which case you’d have to raise a dispute with the Deposit Protection Service. If they find in your landlord’s favour, the small claims court would be a last resort.

Share-market turbulence has sent pension pots into freefall: the question now is whether to act, or hope for a recovery in a few years. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

In January I booked five nights at a hotel in Spain from 29 March using Booking.com. Since then, the Spanish government has banned travel to Spain, but the hotel is insisting that my booking is still valid and that I will lose the entire cost if I cancel or amend it. Why should customers be expected to pay for services that they are prevented from collecting?
ME, Milton Keynes

The hotel will have to change its stance after 24 March when all Spanish holiday accommodation providers are required to close because of the outbreak, although even then it may not be able or willing to refund you. Its response is in breach of Booking.com’s new emergency policy, which has declared the pandemic a “force majeure” and requires its member companies to cancel and refund bookings, and waive cancellation charges, if guests are prevented from travelling. The web giant will waive its commission charges in such cases.

Booking.com did not respond as to what action it will take against uncooperative providers. You could try a claim against your credit card issuer under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act but banks are not legally obliged to refund transactions made by a third-party agent.

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My granddaughter attends a Bright Horizons nursery which has closed due to the outbreak. The contract states that the full fees will continue to be payable during the closure, but there is no statement of commitment to pay the salaries of staff. The management has refused to take calls after this was questioned. It would be good to know that the fees are going to the staff and not to increase profits during a crisis.
SK, London

Businesses are having to make painful decisions very quickly and, to be fair to the nursery chain, it probably can’t commit to paying staff when it doesn’t know how long it will have to remain closed. Parents’ contracts will almost certainly include a cancellation clause which will allow families to stop paying after a certain amount of notice. In which case the company’s income will plummet – although the government has declared it will get a year-long holiday from business rates, and the chancellor’s offer to pay 80% of wages should help to prevent redundancies.

Bright Horizons did respond to my questioning and says it will now not be charging parents fees for April. “We continue to pay colleagues and are very mindful of their financial wellbeing and our responsibilities,” it says.

My partner and I have a honeymoon booked via Opodo in Japan next week. We paid an extra £122 on top of the £2,500 cost for its “Cancel for Any Reason Guarantee”. This entitles you to your money back minus a 20% service charge. I’m chronically ill with hypothyroidism and asthma so want to postpone the trip to avoid infection. However, Opodo is refusing to pay out.
AM, Stevenage, Hertfordshire

You are one of several readers to have contacted me about Opodo’s guarantee. Despite the reassuring name of the policy, two words in the small print could cost you your honeymoon. “Force majeure” events are exempted from full refunds in the terms and conditions and customers can only reclaim the cost of the guarantee and any taxes refunded by the airline, unless the airline cancels the flight, in which case a fare refund is due.

“In the current situation, the policy is unfortunately not valid for travel to countries that are heavily affected,” Opodo says, although it has since offered you the option to rebook for no extra charge within the next 12 months.