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Overpayments are amounts of Benefit (Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Benefit/Council Tax Reduction), which have been paid to you (or your Landlord), but it has then be decided that you were not entitled to that amount of Benefit.
An example would be if a claimant 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.
We will give a reasonable amount of time, usually 4 weeks, in order to make payment or to make arrangements to repay the overpaid amount. If, after this time, the overpayment remains outstanding, we can deduct an amount from any weekly ongoing Housing Benefit you may be entitled to.
If this is not possible, we can ask the Department for Work and Pensions to deduct a weekly amount from any Social Security benefits you may be receiving, for example from your Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit.
If you are employed we can ask your employer to make deductions from your pay and send these to us. This is called a Direct Earnings Attachment (DEA) and the Council does not need to obtain a court order to request this.
If no payments or arrangements are made and no deductions can take place, we may take legal action against you to recover any housing benefit overpayment through the County Court. If this happens, a County Court Judgement will be registered against you, which could mean you may have problems obtaining credit facilities in the future.
A housing benefit overpayment is normally recoverable from the benefit claimant, in most cases you or your partner. If you have an appointee, we may consider recovering the overpayment from them. If you have your housing benefit paid to you landlord and you move house, any overpaid housing benefit will be recovered from your landlord.
In most other instances, even if your housing benefit is paid direct to your landlord, we will recover any housing benefit overpayment from yourself if you are still living in the property.
If housing benefit is being paid direct to a landlord, this does not mean that any housing benefit overpayment will be recovered from the landlord. If a tenant remains in the property and has had a change in circumstances that the landlord could not reasonably have known about, the overpayment will be recovered from the tenant.
If we have decided to recover an overpayment from a landlord we will issue an invoice or make deductions from other tenants' benefit paid to that landlord. The amount of these deductions should not be treated as rent arrears for those tenants, and the landlord must not try to recover the shortfall from them.
Recovery of an overpayment will not prejudice any criminal proceedings that may be taken by us in respect of fraudulent overpayment.
Landlords can request a review where recovery is being sought from them; that is, where an invoice for payment has been issued to him/her, or a deduction is being made from the benefit he/she receives for one of his/her tenants in order to recover an overpayment owed by the landlord in respect of another tenant.
Where the overpayment is owed by the landlord, they will be notified in writing of a decision to recover from them. Any request for a review should be made within 1 month of the decision notice.
A landlord can write to the council at any time requesting a written statement of reasons for the recovery of an overpayment from them.
If a landlord habitually fails to repay overpayments that are recoverable from him, the council can decide that the landlord is not a 'fit and proper person' under Benefit Regulations, and can refuse to make direct benefit payments to that landlord.
If you have been overpaid benefit, the council will write to you to tell you about this. The letter you receive will tell you the amount you have been overpaid, the dates you have been overpaid and show you how the overpayment has been calculated.
This letter will also tell you what to do, if you do not agree with the overpayment. See Benefit Appeals for further information.
If you have been overpaid housing benefit, the council will also send you an invoice for payment of that amount. If you can't pay this all at once, you can contact the benefit section on 01744 676666 to agree payment by instalments. If you are still in receipt of housing benefit, you may have an amount deducted from your benefit every week to repay the housing benefit overpayment.
If you have been overpaid council tax benefit/reduction, the amount of the overpayment will be added back on to your council tax account and you will receive a new council tax bill showing your new payments.