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Overpayments

An overpayment happens when you're given more Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support than you're entitled to.

An overpayment of Council Tax Support is actually an excess of discount - but we use the term overpayment here to cover both Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support.

How do overpayments happen?

Sometimes an overpayment happens because we make a mistake. But many overpayments come about because people don't tell us about a change in their circumstances straight away.

It's important to tell us about any changes in your circumstances which might affect your award. Examples include:

  • You stop getting Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance
  • Your income changes
  • Someone leaves or joins your household
  • You move to another address.

Find out more about changes in your circumstances.

Each time we work out your award, we send you a letter telling you the information that we've used in the calculation. You're responsible for making sure that the information is correct.

The best way to do this is to check the letter carefully. If you notice a mistake or if anything is wrong, you must tell us immediately.

Can all overpayments be recovered?

Housing Benefit Regulations allow us to ask you to pay back most overpayments.

But if the overpayment was caused because of a mistake made by us, the Department for Work and Pensions or HM Revenue and Customs, we can't ask you to pay it back, as long as:

  • You or the person acting on your behalf didn't cause or contribute to the mistake
    and
  • It's unreasonable to expect you to have known you were being overpaid at the time you got your payment or award letter.

In every case, before we decide whether or not to ask you to repay benefit, we look at:

  • The cause of the overpayment
  • Whether you were in any way responsible for the overpayment
  • Whether it's reasonable to expect you to have known that you were being overpaid.

What if the overpayment wasn’t my fault?

Even if the overpayment wasn’t your fault, you may still be required to repay it, but only if we could reasonably expect you to know that you were being overpaid.

Who can the overpayment be recovered from?

We can recover the overpayment from:

  • You (and in some circumstances your partner)
  • Someone acting on your behalf
  • The person that the benefit was paid to (such as your landlord or their agent)

Can I dispute or appeal against an overpayment?

Yes, you can ask for the decision to be looked at again. For Housing Benefit, you'll need to request this within one month of the decision letter.

If I am overpaid, will I have to pay the money back all at once?

Not necessarily. The ways that we can recover an overpayment are shown below. But you can arrange to repay the benefit all at once if you prefer. Please let us know if you would like to do this.

How is an overpayment recovered?

If we decide to ask for repayment, there are several ways we can do it.

We can recover:

  • By reducing your ongoing Housing Benefit until the overpayment is repaid. You'll need to pay extra rent to your landlord or to your rent account to make up the shortfall in your benefit. The weekly amount of the reduction is set by the government
  • If you no longer qualify for Housing Benefit, we'll send you an invoice and you can make an arrangement to repay the debt in instalments
  • By taking money for the overpaid benefit back from your rent account (if you're a council tenant)
    We'll only do this if your rent account is in credit or if you've paid extra rent during the time you were overpaid
  • By recovery from a deceased person’s estate
  • By deduction from certain Social Security benefits.

If the overpayment is for Council Tax Support, we'll add the amount of the excess discount to your Council Tax account and send you a new bill.

What if I can’t pay the money back?

If you let us know you're having difficulties paying back a Housing Benefit overpayment, we can arrange to recover the debt over a longer period of time.

This can be done by reducing the weekly amount that we recover from your ongoing benefit, or by arranging a payment plan for your invoice.

You may need to complete an income and expenditure form so we can work out what you can afford to repay.

Income and Expenditure form (PDF Document, 0.1 Mb)

If you're having difficulty in paying your Council Tax instalments you should contact the Council Tax section straight away.

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