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Housing Benefit overpayments

Last updated 14 February 2014

The Council has a duty to recover benefit overpayments for which there was no entitlement from tenants and landlords. And, where necessary, take criminal proceedings in respect of fraudulent overpayments.

Benefit regulations

The Housing Benefit Regulations and other subsequent legislation set out how the Council administers Housing Benefit. We are required by law to follow these rules, and we have a legal duty to recover overpayments from tenants and/or landlords.

The Council may also decide to take criminal proceedings if we consider the overpayment may have been fraudulent.

What is an overpayment?

An overpayment occurs when Housing Benefit is paid for which there is no entitlement. This includes cases where the amount paid is more than the entitlement. This generally happens when the claimant or landlord does not tell us about a change in his or her circumstances such as an increase in income or other benefits, or a non-dependent moving in.

Who is the overpayment recoverable from?

An overpayment can be recovered from the claimant, or from the person to whom Housing Benefit has been paid (this includes the landlord if they have been paid direct).

What happens if I am overpaid?

Notification letter

If you have been overpaid, the Council will send you a notification letter to tell you that you have been overpaid. The letter will also give the following information:

  • The fact that there is a recoverable overpayment
  • The reason why there is a recoverable overpayment
  • How much the overpayment is
  • How the amount was calculated
  • The benefit weeks to which the recoverable overpayment relates
  • The right to request a written statement
  • The right to apply for a revision of the decision or to appeal

Invoice

You will also be sent an invoice so payment can be made

Direct debit

I don't agree with the overpayment - can I appeal?

You can ask for a review of the overpayment decision. You must do this within one calendar month of the date of the original notification letter. The claimant can ask for this review, and so can the landlord if the overpayment is recoverable from them.The claimant (or landlord, if the overpayment is recoverable from them) can also appeal against the overpayment. This has to be done in writing and within one calendar month of the notification letter. An independent tribunal, administered by the HM Courts and Tribunals Service, not the Council, will hear this appeal.

In both cases, a letter will be sent to advise you of the outcome.

How is the overpayment recovered from claimants?

Overpayments can be recovered in a number of ways:

  • If the claimant is still in receipt of Housing Benefit, then a weekly deduction can be taken from the Housing Benefit to reduce the overpayment. It will be up to the claimant to pay the shortfall in his or her rent to the landlord.
  • Alternatively, deductions can be made from Social Security Benefits such as Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance
  • We will send the claimant a bill ("invoice") for the amount outstanding
  • An agreement can be made to recover the overpayment by instalments. You may be able to pay them by direct debit - please use the online Direct Debit Form for Benefit overpayments or call us call us during office hours on 020 8496 8551 with your bank details

How is the overpayment recovered from landlords?

The landlord will be invoiced for the amount outstanding.

Under Section 16 of the Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act 1997, the Local Authority can recover an overpayment from the Housing Benefit paid to the landlord for a tenant to whom the overpayment does not relate. (Despite the name of the Act, this power applies to all payments, not just fraudulent ones.)

This means that we can stop all existing Housing Benefit payments going out to the landlord for all current tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit, until the Housing Benefit overpayment has been repaid. In such cases the tenant (known as the “Blameless Tenant”) is deemed to have paid rent to the value of the recovered amount.

What will happen if the overpayment is not paid back?

If the overpayment is not paid back or an arrangement not agreed and kept to, the Council can apply for a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against you. A CCJ is held on a national register for six-years from the date of the judgement and cannot be removed

Your credit status will be badly affected if you have a CCJ against your name. All credit referencing agencies will be sent details of your CCJ.Your ability to get or increase credit will also be seriously restricted. This could affect applications for loans, mortgages, credit cards, store cards, and increases in credit limits or overdrafts

If a CCJ is obtained against you, the council can recover the debt in the following ways:

  • Application to the High Court for you to be made bankrupt. All your existing assets and your bank account will be frozen and controlled by the Official Receiver (O.R) . You will be liable to pay the Council’s costs and the O.R. costs (up to £2000) and any Insolvency Practitioner costs (up to £50,000 or more if the case is complex). If you are a homeowner, you may be forced to sell your house to settle your debts.
  • Application to the Court for a charging order to be placed upon any property that you own. You will liable to pay costs and daily interest. The Council may also apply to enforce the Order and sell your property
  • A warrant of execution giving court bailiffs the authority to seize goods. Your goods will be sold at public auction and the proceeds used to pay the debt you owe.
  • An attachment of earnings order, which allows deductions to be made directly from your earnings
  • A third party debt order, which allows payment to be taken directly from your bank or building society accounts

How can I pay the overpayment back?

There are a number of ways you can pay back an overpayment:

  • By Direct Debit
    This is the easiest way for you to make regular payments and you can choose from six payment dates; 1st, 6th, 10th, 15th, 21st and 28th. Please use the online Direct Debit Form for Benefit overpayments or call us during office hours on 020 8496 8551 with your bank details
  • Online
    You can pay online using a debit card or credit card

     

  • At a PayPoint outlet
    You can repay your overpayment at any post office or PayPoint site in the country using a barcode. You should have received a letter with a barcode, however please contact us on 0208 496 8551 if you have not received one
  • By telephone
    You can telephone us using our automated payment system on 020 8496 3000 to make a payment by debit card, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please have your card and your invoice number to hand when you phone
  • In person
    Visit a WFD shop to make a payment by debit or credit card
  • Through telephone banking
    If you have a telephone banking facility, contact your bank. You will need to give:
    Your invoice number
    And the following details: sort code 08-90-30, account number 6123 0165

Excess Council Tax Benefit

If you are paid more Council Tax Benefit than you are entitled to, this is called Excess Council Tax Benefit. Any excess benefit is usually taken back from your council tax account, and you will receive a new bill.

More information

Please contact the Revenues and Benefits Service if you have any queries about the information on this page.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

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See also

Contact details