Failure to report a change of circumstances is a criminal offence. If you do not tell us about changes to your circumstances we may apply a penalty to your account. If you delay reporting a change of circumstances you could lose benefit/ end up overpaid, and therefore be required to repay the Council the money you have been overpaid. You may even face prosecution. For further information please see below section Civic Penalties - Duty to Notify Changes in Circumstances.
Is there a time limit for reporting a change in my circumstances?
If you are getting Council Tax Support, or a Council Tax discount, failure to report any relevant change within 21 days of that change is a criminal offence, however the Council will normally allow you one month to report any change in your circumstances that could affect your entitlement. Provided you notify any change within the one month time limit the change will be calculated from the date the change occurred.
What happens if I am late notifying a change?
If you do not notify the Council within the one month time limit, and the effect of the change would be to increase your entitlement, the change will be calculated from the Monday following the date you notify the Council.
However, if the effect of the change would be a decrease in your entitlement the change will be calculated from the date the change occurred and monies overpaid may be recovered from you and you may face a penalty of at least £50 for Housing Benefit and £70 per Council Tax offence.
A person has a wage increase of £20.00 per week but does not notify the Council until 6 weeks later. The Benefit Section amends the person’s benefit from the date the change occurred because the effect would be a decrease in their entitlement. The claimant's Housing Benefit is reduced by £13.00 per week and their Council Tax Support by £4.00 per week.
A person advises the Council that a grown-up son (a non-dependent for whom the highest non-dependent deduction is made) left the household 5 weeks previously. As the effect of the change is an increase in entitlement, the Benefit Section amends the person’s benefit from the Monday following the date the change was reported.
The person would have been entitled to additional £469 in Housing Benefit for the 5 week period prior to the date the change was reported, however as the change was reported late, the person misses out on this extra entitlement.
This is based on non-dependant deductions of £93.80 per week for the highest non dependant deduction.
Can the one month time limit be extended?
If you can show good reason for failing to notify a change in your circumstances within the one month time limit, and the effect of the change would be an increase in your entitlement, the Council may extend the one month time limit. You must put your reasons for late notification of a change in circumstances in writing.
Civil Penalties - duty to notify changes in circumstances
These rules apply to Housing Benefit.
A civil penalty of £50 can be added to the amount of a recoverable overpayment of benefit of more than £100 where the claimant is viewed as being at fault.
The £50 penalty may be applied to an overpayment in three different circumstances:
- Where a person makes an incorrect statement or representation or provides incorrect information or evidence.
- A person fails without reasonable excuse to provide information or evidence which then results in an overpayment.
- A person fails to notify a change of circumstances which then results in an overpayment.
Where a change of circumstances we become aware of causes an overpayment of more than £100 we can apply a £50 penalty.
A civil penalty cannot be applied where the claimant has, in respect of the overpayment, been charged with an offence, been cautioned or been subject to a penalty as an alternative to prosecution under section 115A of the Social Security Administration Act 1992.
There is the right of appeal against the imposition of a civil penalty. You will be notified of the civil penalty in the overpayment decision letter.