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Housing benefit - overpayments

What is an overpayment?

An overpayment is an amount of benefit that has been paid, but there was no entitlement.

e.g. if a tenant failed to tell the council that their income had increased, and a recalculation of their entitlement meant that they had been paid too much benefit.

A fraudulent overpayment may occur when a person has deliberately provided a false statement or document, or has deliberately failed to report a change of circumstances with the intention of obtaining or retaining benefit.

How does the council deal with overpayments?

The rules concerning the administration of benefit overpayments are contained in the Housing Benefit Regulations and other subsequent legislation. The council has a duty to implement these legal provisions, and has a duty to recover overpayments from tenants and landlords. The council may also decide to take criminal proceedings in respect of fraudulent overpayments.

Who can an overpayment be recovered from?

An overpayment is recoverable from either the person who caused the overpayment, or the person who received the overpayment.

How is benefit recovered from the tenant?

  • If the tenant is currently receiving housing benefit, the overpayment will be recovered from future benefit payments by a weekly deduction.
  • If payments are made direct to the landlord, the tenant's reduced entitlement will be reflected by the amount of the benefit payment that is issued.
  • The tenant is responsible for paying any rent arrears that occur as a result of the reduced amount paid to the landlord.
  • If the tenant is not currently receiving housing benefit, an invoice for payment will be issued so that the claimant can repay the debt.

How is benefit recovered from the landlord?

If the Council has decided to recover an overpayment from a landlord it will issue an invoice.

Recovery of an overpayment will not prejudice any criminal proceedings that may be taken by the council in respect of fraudulent overpayments.

Is there a right of appeal?

Only the tenant can ask for a review of a decision to recover an overpayment from on-going benefit. The tenant will be notified in writing that a weekly deduction is being made.

Benefit regulations do not give a right of review to the landlord in the above circumstances, and neither can the council discuss details of the tenant's claim with the landlord.

A landlord can only request a review where recovery is being sought from him personally; that is, where an invoice for payment has been issued to him.  Any request for a review should be made within one calendar month.

A landlord can write to the council at any time requesting a written statement of reasons for the recovery of an overpayment from him.

For further information on reviews and the Appeals Process please go to Housing Benefit Appeals.

What will happen if the debt is not repaid?

Where an invoice remains unpaid, or an agreed arrangement to repay the debt over time is not being maintained, the council will take further action to recover the debt.

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