Housing Benefit Overpayments
What is an overpayment?
An overpayment is an amount of benefit that has been paid to a person who is not entitled to it.
How does an overpayment occur?
An overpayment may arise for a variety of reasons, including:
- late notification of Income Support or Income Based Jobseekers Allowance ending
- an unreported change in the status of a child or young person
- an unreported increase in income or capital
- an unreported change in the number of persons in the household
- late notification of a partner joining or leaving the household
- a delay in reporting any change in a person’s circumstances that would reduce, or bring to an end, a person’s entitlement
- an ‘official error’ (an error caused by the Local Authority, or by the Department for Work & Pensions, to which the claimant, or the person to whom payment was made, did not contribute)
Chris and Vicky have been receiving Housing Benefit of £130 per week. When they made their benefit claim Chris was off sick from his job and Vicky was a housewife.
Vicky then started work earning £125 per week - but this change in their circumstances wasn’t reported to the Council until 7 weeks later.
When their benefit was reassessed to include this extra income their Housing Benefit reduced to £48.75 per week and they no longer qualified for Council Tax Support.
This meant that they had been overpaid Housing Benefit of £568.75 (7 weeks at £81.25 per week).
The Council Tax bill was recalculated from the date of change and a penalty of £70 was added.
Are all overpayments recoverable?
All overpayments are recoverable except in the case of Housing Benefit only where the following applies:
- the overpayment was caused by an official error, and
- the claimant, someone acting on their behalf, or the person to whom payment was made, could not have reasonably been expected to know that an overpayment had occurred
Any award of Council Tax Support that you are not entitled to will be removed from your bill and your liability will be recalculated.
How can I avoid an overpayment of benefit?
The best way to ensure that you do not have to repay any overpaid benefit to the Council is to tell the benefit section immediately of any changes in your circumstances. This avoids the possibility of you having to repay a large amount of debt, or the potential of facing penalties and prosecution.
You can report a change in your circumstances by letter or by using the Council's Change of Circumstances Form. If you delay reporting a change of circumstances you may be prosecuted.
Email address: email@example.com
How is an overpayment recovered?
If you are still receiving some Housing Benefit when an overpayment is notified to you, a deduction will be made to your Housing Benefit. Your Housing Benefit will be reduced (by a minimum of £11.10 per week from 1/4/2015) until the overpayment is repaid. This figure may be increased if you are working by 50% of any earned income disregard that applies to your entitlement calculation.
If the overpayment is caused by fraudulent activity the minimum level of recovery by deduction from your benefit will be £18.50 per week.
If you are no longer in receipt of Housing Benefit when an overpayment is notified you will be sent an invoice for the full amount of the overpayment.
What payment methods are available to me if I am invoiced?
Paying by instalments:
If you are paying by instalments you may prefer to set up a Direct Debit arrangement and pay through your bank. To pay by Direct Debit contact the Recovery Section on the Council's main telephone number: 01277 312500 and ask for a Direct Debit to be set up.
Payment by phone:
Telephone – 0345 200 1173 is our dedicated 24 hour automated telephone line for payments. Calls cost no more than calls to geographic numbers (01 or 02). Calls from landlines are typically charged up to 9p per minute; calls from mobiles typically cost between 3p and 40p per minute depending on your network provider. Calls from landlines and mobiles are normally included in free call packages.
You can pay online by credit or debit card.
Complete the name and address details, including your email address if you have one, and choose ‘INVOICES’ from the drop down menu. Follow the instructions on the screen to make your payment. If you provide an email address you will get an automatic email confirmation of your payment.
Cash or cheque payments:
If you receive an invoice for an overpayment of Housing Benefit you can pay in full by post or at your bank. Please note that the Council does not accept cash. We can accept payments by cheque at the Council Office through our fastpay machine. Please ensure you enclose the remittance advice on the bottom of the invoice or quote the invoice number.