If your circumstances change this might affect your benefit. If we don't know about these changes in time, we may pay you too much Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support. This is called an overpayment.
In almost all cases overpaid benefit has to be repaid, even if it was paid because of our error.
However, you may not have to repay the overpayment if it was an 'official error' and you could not reasonably have known that you were receiving more benefit than you were entitled to. It is therefore important that you check your notification letters carefully, check that your details are correct, and tell us about any change in your circumstances.
You must tell us about any changes of circumstance, even if you have already told the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), such as:
Can overpayments be reduced?
If you have been overpaid Housing Benefit we may be able to reduce the overpayment by recalculating your entitlement.
Underlying Entitlement is the amount of Housing Benefit the claimant would have been entitled to if we had known about their true circumstances at the time of the changed circumstances. If you supply details of your income and capital for the period of the overpayment, we can work out what your entitlement would have been if we had known about your changes and use this amount of Housing Benefit to reduce what you owe.
Request an explanation
If there is anything you do not understand about your benefit decision or you think the overpayment calculation is incorrect, you can request an explanation, this is called a statement of reasons. We must receive a written request for a statement of reasons within one month of the date of the decision.
How do I repay my overpayment?
If you are still paid Housing Benefit we will deduct an amount from your Housing Benefit payment, the amount we take will depend on your circumstances. To avoid getting into arrears with your rent you will need to be aware you may need to pay more top up to your landlord to make up for this.
If you no longer receive Housing Benefit and cannot pay in full, then contact us to make an arrangement.
What happens if the overpayment is not repaid?
After 21 days we will send a reminder. If the balance is unpaid and no arrangement is in place, the overpayment could be collected through:
Direct Earnings Attachment (DEAs)
If you are working (and not self-employed) we can request direct deductions from your pay. We may therefore contact your employer to make deductions. If we take this action, you will be notified in writing before any money is taken. More information is in the Direct Earnings Attachment - A Guide for Employers
Deductions from your state benefit
We can take deductions from your state benefit, such as:
- Jobseekers Allowance
- Employment Support Allowance
- Retirement Pension
- Income Support
- Maternity Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Benefit
- Widow(er)s Benefit
- Bereavement Benefit
- State Pension Credit
- Carer's Allowance
- Disability Allowance
- Attendance Allowance
- Universal Credit
- Personal Independance Payments (PIP)
Recovery from other councils
If you have moved away and have made a new Housing Benefit claim in that area we can ask the new council to recover the overpayment from your ongoing benefit.
Recovery from your landlord
If we paid your landlord your benefit, in certain circumstances we may ask the landlord to repay the overpayment.
If your debt still remains unpaid then we will apply for an Order for Enforcement of Award. This will incur further costs which you will be liable to pay.
Further actions available to the council are:
- Order to obtain information (attend court to explain in detail your financial circumstances)
- A warrant of execution (carried out by a court appointed Bailiff)
- A third party debt order (allowing us to freeze all of your bank accounts)
- A charging order
- A statutory demand/bankruptcy order
- Writ of Fieri Facias (carried out by a High Court Enforcement Officer to repossess your goods)