Housing Benefit overpayments
If your claim has been recalculated and you end up being sent too much benefit, we’ll send you a letter about your overpayment.
In almost all cases, overpaid benefit must 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.
What happens if I’ve received an overpayment
If we find that you’ve had an overpayment after re-assessing your claim, we’ll send you the full details. We’ll tell you:
- what caused the overpayment
- the dates and the amount of the overpayment
- how much the overpayment is
- what to do if you disagree with the overpayment.
If we need you to pay us back the money, we’ll write to you telling you how to do this.
Request an explanation
If there’s anything you do not understand about your benefit decision or you think the overpayment calculation is incorrect, you can contact us to 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.
Why I’ve received an overpayment of benefit
There are several reasons why you may have received an overpayment of benefit, including:
- you may have forgotten to let us know that your income has increased
- somebody may have moved into or out of your home
- your non-dependent residents may have changed their circumstances
- you may have moved out of your home and not told us
- you may have started work or changed jobs
- you may have told us about a change, but we have been unable to re-assess your claim before your next payment is made.
You must tell us of any change in circumstances that could affect your claim. It’s your responsibility and you should not rely on anyone else to tell us about any changes.
If we believe that benefit fraud has been committed, we'll recover any money you are not entitled to. You could also be prosecuted.
If we've overpaid your Housing Benefit, there are several ways that you can pay us back:
- we can reduce your Housing Benefit each week by the instalment amount shown on your letter until the overpayment is repaid in full
- we may send you an invoice to be paid in full; there are many options available for you to easily pay back the debt – online, over the phone, by standing order
- if your landlord was paid your benefit directly, we may ask them to repay us.
What happens if I do not pay
If the balance is unpaid and no arrangement is in place, we will send you a reminder. If this remains unpaid the overpayment could be collected through the following methods:
Direct Earnings Attachment (DEAs)
If you’re 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, we’ll notify you in writing before any money is taken. You can find more information in the Direct Earnings Attachment - A Guide for Employers.
Deductions from your state benefit
We can make deductions from your benefits, 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 Independence Payments (PIP).
Recovery from other councils
If you’ve 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.
If we do take legal action, any related fees will be added to your overpayment debt. The further actions available to us are:
- order to obtain information (attend court to explain in detail your financial circumstances)
- recovery order
- direct earnings attachment
- a warrant of execution (carried out by a court appointed Bailiff)
- a third-party debt order (allowing us to freeze 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).
Details of the costs associated with these recovery actions can be found on Fees in the Civil and Family Courts - main fees (EX50) on the GOV.UK website.
Underlying Entitlement is the amount of Housing Benefit you would have been entitled to if we’d known about your 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.
Please contact us for any help you need with Housing Benefit repayments.