What is an overpayment?
An overpayment is an amount of housing benefit that we have paid to you or your Landlord which you are not entitled to. In other words, you have received too much housing benefit.
Why do overpayments happen?
Overpayments can happen for various reasons such as:
- You may have forgotten to tell us that your income has changed
- You may have forgotten to tell us that your capital has increased
- You may have forgotten to tell us that someone has moved in or out of your home
- You may have moved
- You may have other adults living with you and their circumstances may have changed
Is the overpayment ‘recoverable’?
We can only ask you to repay an overpayment if it is ‘recoverable’. This is where we haven’t made a mistake on your claim and the overpayment has simply happened because of changes in your circumstances.
What happens if I think that the Council has made a mistake?
If you think that we have made a mistake on your claim and this mistake has caused an overpayment you can write to us and ask us to make the overpayment ‘unrecoverable’. Before you do this check to make sure you can answer YES to all of the questions below:
- Has the Council, DWP or Inland Revenue made a mistake?
- Neither you nor any other person acting on your behalf caused or contributed to the mistake?
- Neither you nor any other person acting on your behalf could reasonably be expected to know that the overpayment was happening when you were notified or paid?
If you can answer yes to these questions we may be able to make the overpayment ‘unrecoverable’ and this means that you won’t have to repay it. To find out how to do this see below – What do I do if I disagree with the overpayment?
Who has to repay it?
If the overpayment is recoverable, we will look at why it has happened and ask you or your Landlord to repay it. We will write to you and tell you who we want to recover it from when the overpayment is created.
Can the overpayment be reduced?
If the overpayment happened because the wrong amount of capital was used on your claim we may be able to reduce the overpayment. For this to apply the ‘relevant period’ must be at least 13 weeks and there must have been a mistake in the amount of capital used on your claim. If you think this applies to you, please contact us.
If the overpayment happened because we didn’t have your correct circumstances, we may be able to reduce the overpayment if you tell us about your correct circumstances for the period of the overpayment. This is called ‘underlying entitlement’. We won’t be able to pay you any more, but we may be able to give you back what you should have been entitled to if we had known about your correct circumstances and use this to reduce the overpayment.
If you think that this applies to you, please provide us with all of your income and capital details for the exact period of the overpayment and ask us to calculate your ‘underlying entitlement’.
How can I repay the overpayment?
If we have sent you an invoice, you can repay it via any of the methods detailed below:
In all cases please quote the 7 digit invoice number.
Payment may be made by debit card or credit card.Repay an overpayment online
Telephone the automated 24-hour payment line on 01234 718061.
Choose 'option 2' and quote the:
- 7 digit Invoice Number
- amount of your payment
- your debit card or credit card number
Internet banking/Standing Order
Use our Sort Code 60-02-13, our Bank Account Number 62288849 and your 7 digit Invoice Number.
Post Office/Payzone outlet
Take your invoice with you so that the bar code can be read. There is no charge for payments by this method.
What will happen if I do not make payment?
If we have sent you an invoice, payment is due on demand. However, if you cannot afford to pay in a lump sum we can usually come to an arrangement with you so that you can pay in instalments.
If you do not maintain your instalments, we will write to you or telephone you to see if there is a problem and if we can help you.
If you still do not make payment or ignore our letters and telephone calls we will either:
- Ask the DWP to deduct money from your DWP benefit to repay us
- Ask our collection agent to visit you to enforce recovery
- Obtain a Court Order. If the Council obtains an Order an initial application fee of £44 will be added to your debt. When the Council seeks to enforce this Order, a further fee of £100 will be added to your debt.
- An Attachment of Earnings Order
- A Charging Order
- A Warrant of Execution
- 3rd Party Debt Order
This list is not exhaustive and the Council will seek to enforce the Order via whichever method of enforcement is available based upon your circumstances.
Landlords – we will deduct the value of the overpayment from any other payment that is issued to you
Please do not ignore us. We can usually come to an arrangement that is suitable for you and for us.
What do I do if I can’t afford what you have asked me to pay?
Write or telephone us immediately to put us in the picture. Complete the income/expenditure form together with your offer of payment. Once we have received this we will be able to negotiate a new arrangement.
What do I do if I want to clear my overpayment in full or pay it off more quickly?
If we are recovering the overpayment by reducing your housing benefit entitlement but you want to pay it off in full, please call us to arrange this. We will either send you an invoice or ask you to make payment to a special number.
If you have already received an invoice or are already paying by instalments and you want to pay the invoice in full, just make payment using your existing 7 digit invoice number. You can make payment via any of the methods in How can I repay the overpayment?
What do I do if I disagree with the overpayment?
If you disagree with the overpayment you can write to us and ask us to give you a more detailed explanation. If you still don’t agree with the overpayment you can ask us to look at the decision again. The things that you can ask us to look at are:
- whether the overpayment is ‘recoverable’ or not
- who we can recover it from
- how we have worked out your overpayment
- any calculation of underlying entitlement
- the fact that your savings and investments have reduced
You must write to us within 1 calendar month of the date that we tell you about the overpayment if you want to dispute it.
If we look at our decision again and you are still not happy with it you can appeal. To appeal you must write to us within 1 calendar month of the date that we told you about the overpayment. You must clearly state that you want to appeal and explain what it is that you think is wrong and the reasons why you think the decision is wrong. You must sign any appeal that you make.
You cannot appeal about how the Authority chooses to recover an overpayment from you or whether the Authority chooses to recover the overpayment.
What do I do if I don’t agree with the Authority’s decision to choose to recover the overpayment?
If you have an overpayment and decide that it is correct and that you don’t want to legally dispute it, you can always ask the Council to use its discretion and not recover it. This is different to a formal dispute or appeal because it does not come under The Housing Benefit Regulations 2006. It is a decision that the Authority makes on its own. To do this you should write directly to the Overpayment Section explaining why you think that we should write off the overpayment. You will need to explain your reasons and any special circumstances that you feel are relevant.
Please note that if this decision is not granted in your favour that there is no right of appeal against it. In addition, there is no set timescale that you have to make this request to us.
Contact the Overpayments team on: Tel 01234 718072
Income and Expenditure Form Housing Benefit (PDF)