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What is an overpayment?

An "overpayment" is benefit/reduction that has been awarded but there was no entitlement to it.  An overpayment normally occurs due to a change in income, capital or circumstances.  Therefore, it is important to always contact our office straight away when your circumstances change.

How does the Council deal with overpayments of HB and reduced entitlement to Council Tax Reduction?

The Council generally seeks to recover (get back) the overpayment or excess benefit amount that has been given, unless it was our fault and the person getting the benefit could not reasonably have been expected to know that too much benefit was being given.

The Council may also start criminal proceedings if there has been a deliberate intention to provide a false statement or document or a failure to report a change in circumstances.

Reducing your overpayment - Underlying entitlement

We can review your overpayment, to see whether you are entitled to benefit based on your actual income and circumstances for the period of your overpayment.  For us to do this, you will need to send all the relevant evidence for this period, e.g. payslips, bank statements etc.  We use any benefit we award for this period to reduce your overpayment - so you may have less to pay back!

How does the Council get the money back?

Council Tax Reduction  If you have an overpayment of council tax reduction, this will be added back onto your council tax account and we will send a revised bill to you.

Housing Benefit - Generally, the Council may seek to recover overpaid benefit from

  • the person to whom the overpaid benefit was paid,
  • someone else who failed to disclose or misrepresented a material fact that contributed to the overpayment,
  • the claimant, if different from above,
  • the claimant's partner(s),
  • if a council tenant, by adding back the amount to your rent account.

If you are entitled to housing benefit, we will usually recover the overpayment by deducting an amount from your weekly housing benefit entitlement until the overpayment has been paid back. This is usually £11.10 a week, but maybe more if you or your partner are working as we can use half of any earnings disregard.  If this deduction causes financial hardship you can apply to our office to reduce this deduction.

If you are no longer entitled to benefit, we will send you an invoice. We will agree an instalment plan for you to repay the debt.  You can pay your instalments by Direct Debit, phone or on-line.  Where an invoice remains unpaid, the Council may:

  • instruct an employer to make deductions from earnings without the need to go to court.  The amount deducted will depend on the level of earnings.
  • take legal action in the County Court, which incurs additional costs,
  • send the debt to a collection agency
  • request the Department of Work and Pensions to make deductions from your benefits
  • request another council to make deductions from Housing Benefit

Where your housing benefit is being reduced to repay an overpayment, you will have to pay the landlord an increased amount of rent to make up for the reduced amount of benefit being paid.

Recovering Overpayments from Landlords.

A Landlord who has received payment of housing benefit which included an overpayment may not have to repay an overpayment if

  • the landlord has advised the Council or the DWP in writing that he suspects that there has been an overpayment,
  • it appears to the Council that there has been a deliberate failure to report a change of circumstances by the tenant causing an overpayment of benefit.

If we decide that we will recover a housing benefit overpayment from the Landlord, we will either issue an invoice or deduct the overpayment from future payments of housing benefit being paid to that landlord. This could be housing benefit paid for a different tenant from the one that had the overpayment. If we do that, the landlord is not allowed to try to recover that money from tenants as rent arrears. Where an invoice remains unpaid, the Council may take legal action in the County Court.

If a landlord repeatedly fails to repay overpayments of housing benefit that are recoverable from them, the Council can decide that the landlord is not a 'fit and proper person' under the Benefit regulations and can refuse to make direct payments of housing benefit to them for his tenants in the future.

Rights of Appeal

If an overpayment occurs, we will send you a decision notice giving details of the overpayment.  You can ask for the decision to be reviewed (looked at again) or ask for a letter of explanation.. Where the decision is to recover the housing benefit overpayment from the landlord (but not otherwise) the landlord can ask for a review of the decision, within one month.

There are further appeal rights if you still disagree with our decision. In such circumstances, an independent tribunal can hear the matter. Details of this are included in the council's formal decision letter when we reviews our decision about the overpayment.  You can appeal against an overpayment by using the 'Benefits - Request for Explanation or Review of Decision' eform.

Updated: 3 Apr 2019
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