Overpayments

Introduction

An overpayment is where we have paid more housing benefit or council tax support than you are entitled to.

How to prevent an overpayment from happening

If you know your circumstances are going to change you must tell us in advance or as soon as you possibly can. A telephone call is not enough.

If you are a landlord you must tell us of any changes that it is reasonable for you to know about, for example, your tenant moves out.

If you do not tell us of any changes you may lose any benefit you are entitled to or you may get too much benefit.

What can cause an overpayment

If your personal circumstances and/or financial circumstances change and you do not tell us straight away you can be overpaid benefit. For example:

  • if your income or capital has increased. This includes wages, state benefits, private pensions and working and child tax credits
  • if the circumstances of other adults living with you as part of your household change
  • if people move in and out of your home
  • if you have started work or changed jobs
  • if you are temporarily absent from home
  • if you move out or your partner moves out
  • if you get married, form a civil partnership or start living with someone as if you are married or civil partners
  • if your rent changes

Do not rely on the Jobcentre Plus, The Department of Works and Pension, the Pension Service or your landlord to tell us of any changes.

If your claim is found to be fraudulent, we will recover any overpaid benefit from you.

How will I know if I have an overpayment?

If you have been overpaid housing benefit or council tax support we will write to you and tell you the following:

  • that there has been an overpayment of benefit
  • the reason for the overpayment
  • the dates and amount of the overpayment
  • how we have calculated the overpayment
  • the person the overpayment relates to
  • what to do if you disagree with the overpayment

If we are making direct payments to your landlord we will write to both you and your landlord at the same time.

What if the overpayment is not my fault?

If the council believe that you could reasonably have known that you were being overpaid, even though it may not have been your fault, we will recover any overpaid benefit from you.

What if I do not agree with the housing benefit overpayment?

If you disagree with the overpayment, after reading the explanation, you can:

  • ask us to explain it in writing
  • ask us to review the decision (look at it again)

How can I pay the money back?

The overpayment can be paid back in one of the following ways:

  • if you are still receiving housing benefit or are a landlord getting direct benefit payments, we may deduct an amount from your weekly housing benefit entitlement and use it to reduce the overpayment. We will write and tell you before we do this and advise you of the weekly amount we will take. If you feel the reduction of your housing benefit is causing you hardship you can write and ask us to lower the amount. We may ask for more details before we do this
  • if your landlord was paid direct we may ask the landlord to repay us in certain circumstances
  • if you stop receiving housing benefit an invoice will be sent to you requesting repayment of the debt in full. If you are not in a position to repay the full amount you will need to contact us to discuss paying by instalments
  • if you have been overpaid council tax benefit we will debit your council tax account with the overpayment and send you a new council tax bill. This will increase the amount of council tax you owe. You will need to contact the council tax office to discuss repaying the amount due

What if I do not agree with the council tax support overpayment?

Overpayments of council tax support are recoverable from all claimants who are of working age. Overpayments for those who have reached state pension credit age are recoverable unless caused by official error, which the claimant could not reasonably have been expected to know that it was an overpayment. 

If you disagree with the overpayment, after reading the explanation, you can:

  • ask us to explain it in writing

Once you have received your review decision, if you are still unhappy, you may make an appeal.

How can I pay the money back?
If you have been overpaid council tax support we will debit your council tax account with the overpayment and send you a new council tax bill. This will increase the amount of council tax you owe. You will need to contact the council tax office to discuss repaying the amount due.

What further action will be taken if I do not make and maintain an offer to repay?

Please do not ignore our letters, the debt will not go away and you will become involved in further recovery action. This may mean additional costs added to the amount that you already owe.

Action that can be taken:
  • we can make deductions from other benefits you receive from the Department of Works and Pensions
  • the debt can be passed to collection agents - they will make direct contact with you to recover the debt
  • landlords that have not repaid overpayments to the council can have the overpayment deducted in full from further housing benefit paid to them for other tenants
  • we can ask the county court to register the debt as an order of the court. This can be enforced as if it were a county court judgement

The methods of enforcement after the debt has been registered at the county court are:

  • an attachment of earnings order, which means that your debt will be recovered by deductions from your salary  
  • a third party debt order, which attaches a debt owed to the claimant by a third party
  • a charging order
  • bankruptcy

If you have been asked to repay an overpayment and have not made an arrangement then you need to contact us to avoid any further action being taken by the council.

For more information and to make payments telephone the debt team on (020) 8825 5997, Mon-Fri, 9am-4.30pm.