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Housing benefit overpayments

Overpaying of benefits will in most cases result in the money needing to be paid back if your circumstances have changed.

Generally, these occur when there has been a change in the details on which your claim was assessed. This is why it is really important that you tell us of any changes in your circumstances as soon as they happen.

It is important to read the letters we send you about your benefit to check that we have based your benefit on the correct information. If we have something wrong, then you should tell us straight away.

Establishing an overpayment

First of all, we must establish why this has happened, how much the overpayment is and the period it covers. We then decide whether we should recover the overpayment and who from. But usually someone will have to pay the money back and it is usually the person claiming the benefit.

Informing you of overpayments

You will be notified of any overpayment in writing. If you don’t agree with the decision you can ask for the decision to be explained or reviewed or you may appeal against the decision. Any request for us to do any of the above should be in writing within one month of the date of the letter telling you about the decision.

Paying overpayments back

If it is Council Tax Reduction that has been overpaid, then the overpayment will be added to your Council Tax account and normal recovery procedures for Council Tax arrears will take place.

Sometimes Housing Benefit overpayments can be recovered from the landlord if they received the payments of Housing Benefit and the overpayment has arisen because the tenant has moved out.

Usually, we recover overpayments of Housing Benefit by making a weekly deduction from ongoing entitlement.  This forms an agreement to settle the debt. If there is no further entitlement to Housing Benefit then you will be sent an invoice. If you can’t repay it all at once, then an agreement can be made to repay it over a period of time.

Official errors

Where the overpayment was as a result of an official error or mistake, and the person receiving the money could not reasonably have been expected to know they were being overpaid, we may not ask for the money back. 

Failure to repay

Failure to repay the debt, or reach an agreement, will mean that we register the debt at court and obtain a County Court judgment to give us greater powers to recover the debt.  This might be an attachment of earnings or a charge on your property.